Facial Nerve Paralysis

Facial Nerves Diagram - Credits: Patrick J. Lynch, medical illustrator; C. Carl Jaffe, MD, cardiologist

Peripheral nerve disorders can sometimes result in facial nerve paralysis.

Our facial nerve team is a multidisciplinary collaboration of neurologists, head and neck surgeons, neurosurgeons and plastic and reconstructive surgeons. 

We offer a number of interventions to help restore a more normal appearance, and often, a functional smile.

We provide comprehensive care for patients with facial paralysis related to:

  • Birth defects
  • Infections
  • Trauma
  • Tumors

Surgery

As with any nerve injury, it is critical to determine whether the nerve will recover spontaneously or whether surgery will be required. To assist with this, nerve testing, including electromyogram (EMG) and nerve conduction studies, are performed to determine whether nerve function is present, even if function is not clinically evident. 

If the injury is recent, baseline and interval studies (e.g., nerve testing, photographs and videos of facial function), are used by the team to determine the proper intervention needed to restore function.

Surgery may include:

  • Acute surgical intervention after facial nerve trauma
  • Decompression of the nerve through its bony canal within the skull base
  • Nerve grafting
  • Cranial nerve transfers
  • Transplanting muscle to reconstruct a functional smile
  • Microvascular facial reconstruction
  • Aesthetic facial reconstruction

Before any of these interventions are undertaken, we believe that it is critical to understand your goals so we can help you recover the function you're seeking.

The Facial Nerve Team

Our team works together to determine the best reconstructive approach. Some surgeries can be accomplished in a single operation, whereas others may require more than one surgery to achieve the best results. The operation is often a combined effort, with physicians working together as a team.

The team consists of:

  • Quyen Nguyen, MD, expert in diseases of the facial nerves
  • Amanda Gosman, MD, expert in reconstructive soft tissue surgery including muscle transplantation
  • Justin Brown, MD, neurosurgeon and expert in peripheral nerve reconstruction and nerve transfers 

The facial paralysis clinic at UC San Diego Health System is one of the nation's most comprehensive clinics available for the treatment of facial movement impairments.

Facial Paralysis Specialists

Related Services

School of Medicine Links

Facial Nerve Q&A

On February 14, a team of UC San Diego surgeons performed a complicated cancer surgery on Hall of Fame outfielder, Tony Gwynn. The process involved utilizing a nerve graft from Gwynn’s neck to reconstruct a facial nerve.

Read Q&A on nerve grafts with Justin Brown, MD