Facial reanimation surgery may be recommended when you experience total or near-total loss of your ability to show facial expression. Facial paralysis may result from a birth-related condition such as Moebius Syndrome, a facial injury, or tumor surgery that involves the facial nerve. Either the facial nerve does not function properly, or facial muscles don’t develop properly or become lax and unable to perform.
Nature and Timing of Lost Nerve Function Determines Type of Surgery
Facial reanimation surgery can take two forms, depending on the nature and timing of the lost nerve function:
- Microsurgical muscle transfer can restore the ability to smile in people born without facial movement or with longstanding facial paralysis.
- Nerve transfers or grafts can restore facial muscle function in people who previously had facial movement but lost function following tumor surgery or trauma.
One or Two Stages
Facial reanimation is performed in one or two stages. When procedures are performed in two stages, they are often separated by a period of 9–12 months. Many factors are taken into consideration when determining the best approach, including your age, the cause of your facial paralysis, and whether it affects one side of your face (unilateral) or both (bilateral). Your surgeon will explain this when recommending the process that will achieve the best possible results for you.
If You've Lost Facial Function You Had Before, Timing Is Important
The earlier you are seen, the better your outcome will be, as the newly transferred facial nerve may be able to regain control of your existing facial muscles before they become permanently paralyzed.
Other Procedures Don't Restore Facial Movement
Less sophisticated, more readily available procedures tighten or lift a drooping face to a more attractive position but don’t restore facial movement. Facial reanimation surgery restores or replaces lost facial movement. It may not create a perfectly symmetrical smile or completely restore a natural eyelid blink, but over time it will restore your ability to express your emotions through more natural facial movement.