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Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2000 Feb;122(2):246-52.

Effect of long-term electrical stimulation on motor recovery and improvement of clinical residuals in patients with unresolved facial nerve palsy.

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National Center for Facial Paralysis, Inc, Washington, DC 20037, USA.



This study investigated the efficacy of a pulsatile electrical current to shorten neuromuscular conduction latencies and minimize clinical residuals in patients with chronic facial nerve damage caused by Bell's palsy or acoustic neuroma excision.


The study group included 12 patients (mean age 50.4 +/- 12. 3 years) with idiopathic Bell's palsy and 5 patients (mean age 45.6 +/- 10.7 years) whose facial nerves were surgically sacrificed. The mean time since the onset of paresis/paralysis was 3.7 years (range 1-7 years) and 7.2 years (range 6-9 years) for the Bell's and neuroma excision groups, respectively.


Motor nerve conduction latencies, House-Brackmann facial recovery scores, and a 12-item clinical assessment of residuals were obtained 3 months before the onset of treatment, at the beginning of treatment, and after 6 months of stimulation. Patients were treated at home for periods of up to 6 hours daily for 6 months with a battery-powered stimulator. Stimulation intensity was kept at a submotor level throughout the study. Surface electrodes were secured over the most affected muscles. Groups and time factors were used in the analyses of the 3 outcome measures.


No statistical differences were found between the two diagnostic groups with respect to any of the 3 outcome measures. Mean motor nerve latencies decreased by 1.13 ms (analysis of variance test, significant P = 0.0001). House-Brackmann scores were also significantly lower (Wilcoxon signed rank test, P = 0.0003) after treatment. Collective scores on the 12 clinical impairment measures decreased 28.7 +/- 8.1 points after 6 months [analysis of variance test, significant P = 0.0005). Eight patients showed more than 40% improvement, 4 better than 30%, and 5 less than 10% improvement in residuals score.


These data are consistent with the notion that long-term electrical stimulation may facilitate partial reinnervation in patients with chronic facial paresis/paralysis. Additionally, residual clinical impairments are likely to improve even if motor recovery is not evident.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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