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What is facial nerve repair?

Facial nerve repair is a specialized surgical procedure to restore facial function and appearance in individuals affected by facial nerve injuries. This intricate procedure involves meticulously reconnecting or grafting the damaged nerve ends to enable proper signaling between the brain and facial muscles. The facial nerve, often called the seventh cranial nerve, plays a central role in controlling facial movements, including smiling, blinking, and expressions. Damage to this nerve can result from various causes, such as trauma, surgery, tumors, or neurological conditions, leading to facial weakness or paralysis. Our advanced facial nerve repair surgery in Boston can allow patients to regain their ability to express emotions, communicate effectively, and restore their overall quality of life. 

smiling on street

Restoring Facial Function and Symmetry

Facial nerve repair can yield a range of results, which are often influenced by various factors, including the extent of nerve damage, the timing of the repair, and the surgical technique employed. In cases of successful repair, patients may experience a gradual return of facial muscle function and symmetry, contributing to improved facial expressions and overall quality of life. Early intervention and meticulous surgical technique are critical for optimizing outcomes, as delayed repairs may lead to more modest improvements. Additionally, post-operative rehabilitation and ongoing care are essential in maximizing the long-term results of facial nerve repair.

Types of facial nerve repair procedures

Cross-facial nerve grafts

Cross-facial nerve grafts are performed to provide direct innervation of facial muscles on the affected side, especially those responsible for smiling and eye closure. This technique is used to restore facial function following nerve damage.

Surgical resection

Surgical resection of the DLI muscle provides permanent balance and symmetry. There is no visible scarring since the incision is located inside the mouth.

Depressor labii inferioris (DLI) excision

The Depressor Labii Inferioris (DLI) muscles are involved in moving the lower lip downward to expose the bottom teeth during smiling. Often, patients with facial palsy have excessive activity in this muscle on the unaffected side of their face, leading to facial asymmetry during smiles. DLI excision aims to weaken the healthy DLI muscle, resulting in a more symmetric smile.

Gracilis-free tissue transfer

In cases where patients have experienced long-term flaccid facial palsy, often lasting longer than two years, traditional facial muscles lose their functionality due to a prolonged lack of nerve input. At the Facial Nerve Center, we offer a remarkable solution by utilizing a small piece of muscle, the gracilis muscle, harvested from the inner thigh. This muscle is skillfully transplanted to the face to replace the non-functioning facial muscles responsible for smiling.

BOTOX injections

BOTOX can be injected into the healthy-side muscle to weaken it temporarily, with results that last three to six months before retreatment is needed.  

Each surgical technique is crucial in facial nerve reconstruction in Boston, aiming to restore facial function and symmetry following facial nerve damage.

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Facial reanimation specialist: Dr. Tessa Hadlock

Facial reanimation is a highly specialized field within facial plastic and reconstructive surgery that demands exceptional skill and experience. Dr. Tessa Hadlock, distinguished for her facial nerve expertise in Boston, leads the team at the Hadlock Center for Facial Plastic Surgery. Her groundbreaking research and extensive experience have significantly advanced the methods for regenerating facial nerve function. Dr. Tessa Hadlock also serves as a professor at Harvard, imparting her vast knowledge and expertise to the next generation of medical professionals.

Dr. Hadlock's exceptional body of work includes numerous clinical outcomes studies and the development of influential tools to gauge the effectiveness of reanimation procedures. Her contributions are widely recognized and frequently referenced in international literature. With a passion for restoring smiles and improving the quality of life for patients with facial paralysis, Dr. Hadlock's expertise is unrivaled, making the Hadlock Center for Facial Plastic Surgery the premier destination for those seeking the most advanced and effective facial reanimation procedures available.

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