Facial palsy is a well-known functional and esthetic problem that bothers most patients and affects their social relationships. When the time between the onset of paralysis and patient presentation is less than 18 months and the proximal stump of the injured facial nerve is not available, another nerve must be anastomosed to the facial nerve to reactivate its function. The masseteric nerve has recently gained popularity over the classic hypoglossus nerve as a new motor source because of its lower associated morbidity rate and the relative ease with which the patient can activate it. The aim of this work was to evaluate the effectiveness of masseteric–facial nerve neurorrhaphy for early facial reanimation.
Thirty-four consecutive patients (21 females, 13 males) with early unilateral facial paralysis underwent masseteric–facial nerve neurorrhaphy in which an interpositional nerve graft of the great auricular or sural nerve was placed. The time between the onset of paralysis and surgery ranged from 2 to 18 months (mean 13.3 months). Electromyography revealed mimetic muscle fibrillations in all the patients. Before surgery, all patients had House-Brackmann Grade VI facial nerve dysfunction. Twelve months after the onset of postoperative facial nerve reactivation, each patient underwent a clinical examination using the modified House-Brackmann grading scale as a guide.
Overall, 91.2% of the patients experienced facial nerve function reactivation. Facial recovery began within 2–12 months (mean 6.3 months) with the restoration of facial symmetry at rest. According to the modified House-Brackmann grading scale, 5.9% of the patients had Grade I function, 61.8% Grade II, 20.6% Grade III, 2.9% Grade V, and 8.8% Grade VI. The morbidity rate was low; none of the patients could feel the loss of masseteric nerve function. There were only a few complications, including 1 case of postoperative bleeding (2.9%) and 2 local infections (5.9%), and a few patients complained about partial loss of sensitivity of the earlobe or a small area of the ankle and foot, depending on whether great auricular or sural nerves were harvested.
The surgical technique described here seems to be efficient for the early treatment of facial paralysis and results in very little morbidity.