Facial Nerve Repair

With facial nerves playing a pivotal role in health and public interactions, Dr. Furze carefully utilizes a number of successful approaches, including surgery and nerve grafting.

Facial nerves play a crucial role in our health and social interactions. If one of these nerves is damaged, the effects can be devastating. Nerve damage can cause paralysis in parts of the face or on an entire side of the face. When this happens, the patient will no longer be able to control parts of their face. In addition to causing an abnormal appearance, which may lead to psychosocial trauma, nerve damage can have significant health effects. The following are common problems associated with facial nerve damage:

  • Difficulty eating and drinking
  • Slurred speech or difficulty speaking
  • Drooling
  • Nasal breathing problems
  • Eye irritation
  • Inability to blink, which can eventually lead to blindness
  • Sensitivity to sound
  • Numbness
  • Pain

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Causes of facial nerve damage

Facial nerves are most often damaged as a result of trauma. The face contains an intricate network of nerves that is susceptible to damage from accidents or surgery. The most common causes of facial nerve damage are:

  • Penetrating injuries (for example, from a car accident or occupational injury)
  • Swelling as a result of trauma that impinges on nerve lines
  • Surgery (for example, to remove a tumor)
  • Infection

In many cases, however, the precise cause of nerve damage cannot be identified. This is especially the case when damage occurs when the individual is healthy and has not sustained an injury or been ill. Bell’s Palsy is the name given to cases where the cause of nerve damage cannot be identified.

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Facial nerve repair

Nerves can regrow, but the process is very slow and complete function is not always regained. For many patients, surgery is the only way to repair a damaged facial nerve and restore facial function. There are several different approaches to facial nerve repair, including surgery and nerve grafting.

When Dr. Furze performs surgical nerve repair, the objective is to re-attach the ends of a severed nerve so the nerve can regrow. In many cases, the nerve will regrow and regain its some or all of its function. Nerve grafting is used when the nerve is severed and cannot be reconnected. Dr. Furze harvests a segment of nerve from another part of the body and grafts it to either end of the damaged nerve, restoring the connection and encouraging regrowth. Patients will experience numbness where the nerve was harvested, so the donation site must be selected with care.

When is nerve repair necessary?

Facial nerve repair is a demanding procedure. Equally demanding is determining if nerve repair is necessary and when it should be performed. When the nerve is completely severed, there is no chance that it will recover naturally. In these cases, surgery or nerve grafting may help restore function. If the nerve is intact or partially intact, the patient is likely to regain some function; however the nerve regrowth process is slow and can last up to 18 months. This is when it becomes a little more difficult to determine when to perform surgery.

Doctors know that there is a better long-term outcome when facial nerve repair is performed as soon after the injury as possible. This means that valuable time can be lost while waiting to see if a facial nerve will spontaneously recover. Facial nerve repair is not an exact science, so Dr. Furze relies on his vast experience to make a decision whether and when facial nerve repair should be performed. If you are suffering from a damaged facial nerve, it is important to work with the most experienced doctor in your area to ensure the best outcome.

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