woman at a family gathering dinner table

Facial Reanimation

Causes of Facial Paralysis

Facial paralysis is the result of nerve damage, which can be attributed to many conditions. There are many causes, most common being birth defects or diseases such as a stroke, brain tumor, Bell’s palsy or Moebius Syndrome. Other possible causes of facial paralysis include:

  • Skull fracture
  • Injury to the face
  • Head injury
  • Neck tumor
  • Middle ear infection or other damage to the ears
  • Lyme disease
  • Ramsay-Hunt syndrome
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Guillain-Barré syndrome

Facial Paralysis Symptoms

The symptoms of facial paralysis can begin suddenly or come on gradually over a few months’ time. They can include:

  • Inability blink fully
  • Decreased tear production
  • Drooping of the mouth on the affected side
  • Asymmetry in smile
  • Slurred speech
  • Drooling
  • Difficulty eating or drinking

Who Is a Candidate for Facial Reanimation Surgery?

To diagnose facial paralysis, your doctor may ask you to try to move muscles in your face. You likely will be asked to perform these movements:

  • Raising your eyebrow
  • Closing your eye
  • Smiling with no teeth showing
  • Smiling with teeth showing
  • Frowning
  • Puckering

Your doctor also may order imaging, nerve studies , or blood tests. Facial paralysis can be temporary or permanent, and the experts at Orlando Health Aesthetic and Reconstructive Surgery Institute can help find the right treatment for you.

Facial Reanimation Treatment

If you experience total facial paralysis or near-total loss of facial muscle control, your doctor may recommend facial reanimation surgery. This type of treatment can be done in two ways, and the decision is based on the timing of the loss of function.

If you have had recent loss of facial control, transplanting nerves may be your best option. The new nerves may be able to take control of your facial muscles before they become permanently paralyzed. For those with longstanding facial paralysis, surgeons can transplant muscles to the face with microsurgery techniques. Both procedures restore patients’ ability to better express emotions through the natural movements of their faces.

Facial reanimation can be performed in one or two stages. If your surgeon recommends using two surgeries for your condition, they likely will be separated by 9-12 months. In making this decision, your surgeon will consider your age, the cause of your facial paralysis, and whether it affects one side of your face or both.