The Penn State Multidisciplinary Facial Nerve Disorders Clinic is dedicated to the treatment of patients with facial weakness and facial paralysis caused by injury, surgery or disease. The most common cause of facial weakness is Bell’s palsy, but it may be due to other disorders such as Lyme disease, tumors, stroke, trauma to the skull base or face, or from surgery to treat diseases. Some patients regain facial function but are left with abnormal nerve regrowth that may cause spasms or unintended movements of the muscles in the face.

Facial weakness has a profoundly detrimental effect on quality-of-life. Patients often have difficulty communicating both verbally and non-verbally, which can be socially and physically debilitating. Due to asymmetries and unintended movements of various facial muscles, a patient’s inadvertent facial gestures may lead to misinterpretation of expressions. Vital functions such as eating, speaking and drinking may be limited for patients; common actions, such as blinking, brow lifting and smiling may lead to unpleasant facial movements. This can limit quality-of-life, decrease social interactions and, in some cases, cause social isolation. 

Caring for patients with facial nerve disorders is complex and typically requires multiple specialists for optimum outcomes. Treatment options vary based on the degree of facial weakness and prognosis for recovery. Therapy ranges from physical therapy, minimally invasive therapies such as botulinum toxin to treat synkinesis, abnormal facial spasms and a wide range of surgical therapies. Some patients may benefit from advanced techniques to try to restore facial function.  

The clinic offers a multidisciplinary and patient-centered approach to treat patients with facial nerve disorders, providing a full range of services to improve the appearance, function, and quality of life of patients. The team consists of medical and surgical specialists trained in the diagnosis and advanced management of facial nerve disorders.  

The team includes a facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon and two plastic and reconstructive surgeons with expertise in treating facial nerve disorders, two therapists with advanced training in facial rehabilitation, and a nurse. Other specialists are involved as needed and may include: 

  • Neurotology
  • Head and neck surgery
  • Adult neurology
  • Pediatric neurology
  • Ophthalmology 
  • Neurosurgery
  • Infectious disease

As a multidisciplinary program, patients may also obtain any necessary laboratory, imaging and electrodiagnostic studies that may be requested as part of their care. 

Conditions Treated

Facial paralysis or facial weakness due to many causes including: 

Procedures

  • Botox
  • Brow lift
  • Corneal neurotization
  • Eyelid lift
  • Gold or platinum eyelid weight placement
  • Lower eyelid tightening
  • Facelift
  • Facial sling/suspension
  • Muscle transfers
  • Nerve repair
  • Nerve grafts
  • Nerve transposition
  • Reanimation
  • Facial rehab therapy

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Support groups provide an opportunity to share your feelings and connect with other patients and caregivers who are experiencing similar struggles.

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