Hemifacial spasm (HFS) is a debilitating neuromuscular disorder with limited treatment options. The current study describes a novel minimally invasive procedure that provided effective and sustained relief for patients with HFS. The authors provide a detailed description of the awake CT-guided percutaneous radiofrequency ablation (RFA) of the facial nerve for treatment of HFS, and they examine its clinical efficacy. This is the first time in the literature that this procedure has been applied and systematically analyzed for HFS.
Patients with a history of HFS were recruited between August 2018 and April 2020. Those with a history of cerebellopontine lesions, coagulopathy, ongoing pregnancy, cardiac pacemaker or defibrillator implants, or who declined the procedure were excluded from the study. Fifty-three patients who met the study criteria were included and underwent awake CT-guided RFA. Under minimal sedation, a radiofrequency (RF) needle was used to reach the stylomastoid foramen on the affected side under CT guidance, and the facial nerve was localized using a low-frequency stimulation current. Patients were instructed to engage facial muscles as a proxy for motor monitoring during RFA. Ablation stopped when the patients’ hemifacial contracture resolved. Patients were kept for inpatient monitoring for 24 hours postoperatively and were followed up monthly to monitor resolution of HFS and complications for up to 19 months.
The average duration of the procedure was 32–34 minutes. Postoperatively, 91% of the patients (48/53) had complete resolution of HFS, whereas the remaining individuals had partial resolution. A total of 48 patients reported mild to moderate facial paralysis immediately post-RFA, but most resolved within 1 month. No other significant complication was observed during the study period. By the end of the study period, 5 patients had recurrence of mild HFS symptoms, whereas only 2 patients reported dissatisfaction with the treatment results.
The authors report for the first time that awake CT-guided RFA of the facial nerve at the stylomastoid foramen is a minimally invasive procedure and can be an effective treatment option for HFS.