Facial Paralysis

(415) 353-9500

Smiling is something that we often take for granted. There are thousands of expressions that a face can convey with inflections provided by a subtle lift of the eyebrow, a flared nostril, or a tightening of the jaw. Quite suddenly however, all of these expressions, as well as the ability to close the eye, speak, swallow, or even breath through the nose may be swept away.

When the facial nerve is damaged, one is left with functionally only half of a face. This critical window to the world becomes wooden and droopy on the damaged side. While some patients recover function on their own, many are faced with life-long paralysis. Social interaction is shunned, jobs are lost and relationships may be terminally stressed.

Traditional operations to repair facial movement require multiple stages with waiting periods of up to a year for nerve grafts to “take”. Others cause deforming contour abnormalities or give patients only static suspension. The facial plastic and reconstructive surgical team at UCSF is able to restore degrees of meaningful and expressive movement of the face. Droopy eyebrows are lifted, closure is restored to the upper eyelid, the lower eyelid is tightened and the smile may be restored with a muscle or nerve transfer. Progress in this area has been astounding, and continues with new techniques that are being developed at UCSF.

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