Facial Nerve Paralysis in Children
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Introduction[edit | edit source]
Facial Palsy is one of the most common cranial nerve dysfunctions in children and is a frequent presentation in pediatric emergency facilities. Spontaneous recovery is noted in the majority of the cases and prognosis correlates with age and severity of paralysis. Although less common in children than in adults, facial paralysis can have a huge impact on a child's life as well as the family especially if left untreated.
Clinically Relevant Anatomy[edit | edit source]
For an in-depth discussion on the facial nerve anatomy, please head to the Facial Nerve page.
The facial nerve, which is the seventh cranial nerve (CNVII), is responsible for facial muscle movement, lacrimation and salivation. Many parts of the head and neck region are innervated by its parasympathetic (secretomotor), motor, and sensory nerve fibers.
The course of the facial nerve is divided into two parts: 
- intracranial segment
- extracranial segment
- temporal - innervates the frontalis and orbicularis oculi muscles and the muscles along with the upper part of the face
- zygomatic - innervates the middle part of the face
- buccal - innervates the cheek muscles
- mandibular - innervates muscles of the lower part of the face
- cervical - innervates the muscles below the chin and platysma muscle
Mechanism of Injury / Pathological Process[edit | edit source]
Idiopathic[edit | edit source]
The cause of about 60-80% of facial palsy in children remains unknown. Commonly known as Bell's Palsy, studies hypothesize that inflammation damaging the nerve may have resulted from viruses such as Herpes Simplex 1, although there are no conclusive studies yet to prove its causative role in facial nerve dysfunction. 
Congenital[edit | edit source]
The following can cause congenital facial paralysis: 
- Delivery traumas:
- Birth weight > 3500 g
- Cesarean section
- Syndromic malformative:
- Hereditary myopathies
- 3q21-22 and 10q21.3-22.1 mutations
Acquired[edit | edit source]
Acquired causes include:
- Henoch-Schönlein porpora
- Kawasaki syndrome
- Schwannomas of the VII c.n.
- Temporal bone histiocytosis
- Parotid gland tumors
- Temporal bone fractures
Clinical Presentation[edit | edit source]
Facial palsy can have motor, sensory, and visceral affectations. Signs and symptoms to look out for:
- Facial asymmetry -facial creases and nasolabial fold disappear, dropping mouth, eyelid widening and lagophthalmos
- Inability to whistle, puff cheeks, frown, close the eyelid
- Bell's Sign
- Hyperacusis (due to stapedius muscle paralysis)
- Paresthesias or pain of the ear (pinna or of the concha)
- Lacrimal and salivary production can be reduced (visceral deficit)
- Corneal irritation(secondary to lagophthalmos)
- Metallic taste in the mouth (due to the taste alteration of the anterior 2/3 of the tongue)
For newborns and infants:
- Unilateral facial paralysis can be suspected when there's asymmetry of the face when crying
- With severe paralysis, newborns or infants may not be able to close their eye on the affected side, leading to uneven facial appearance and can potentially interfere with breastfeeding.
Diagnostic Procedures[edit | edit source]
A thorough medical history review and physical exam are vital for the proper diagnosis of facial paralysis. The history of onset and progression, associated symptoms, and comorbidities should be identified and investigated. Relevant examinations include:
- Facial nerve evaluation
- ENT exam to assess the external auditory canal, eardrum, mastoid region
- Audiological assessment
- Blood pressure and blood count
- Serologic testing (immunoglobulin G and M) for children living in Lyme-endemic territories during the spring and autumn months
- Imaging such as computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)- for suspected chronic otitis media, acute mastoiditis, trauma, or neoplasm.
- Electroneuronography (ENoG)
- Lumbar puncture- done only if central nervous system infection such as meningitis and Guillain-Barré syndrome is suspected
Outcome Measures[edit | edit source]
The severity of facial paralysis can be assessed using House–Brackmann Scale. It is a grading system that assesses facial muscle functions, including the closing of eyes, elevating brows, frowning, smiling, and puckering lips.
Management / Interventions[edit | edit source]
- Drug Therapy- As Bell's palsy typically resolves on its own in pediatric population, the goal of drug therapy is to reduce the likelihood of incomplete resolution and minimize the risk of complications such as synkinesis, autonomic dysfunctions (e.g., crocodile tears), and facial spasms.
- Eye Care- Facial palsy can cause incomplete closure of the affected eyelid, which increases the risk of irritation and corneal ulceration due to inadequate eye protection and decreased tear production. Eye-protective measures such as artificial tears, ophthalmic lubricating ointment during sleep, an eyelid patch at night, and sun protection are recommended. 
- Physiotherapy - Although there is little evidence available, various rehabilitative techniques such as physiotherapy, biofeedback therapy, relaxation exercises with massage therapy, and coordination and facial expression exercises may be effective in reducing muscle stiffness and improving facial movements.
Differential Diagnosis[edit | edit source]
- Lyme Disease
- Chronic otitis media
- Acute mastoiditis
- Guillain-Barré syndrome
References[edit | edit source]
- Wohrer D, Moulding T, Titomanlio L, Lenglart L. Acute Facial Nerve Palsy in Children: Gold Standard Management. Children. 2022 Feb 17;9(2):273.
- Wang CS, Sakai M, Khurram A, Lee K. Facial nerve palsy in children: a case series and literature review. Otolaryngology Case Reports. 2021 Sep 1;20:100297.
- Seneviratne SO, Patel BC. Facial nerve anatomy and clinical applications. StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL).
- Takezawa K, Townsend G, Ghabriel M. The facial nerve: anatomy and associated disorders for oral health professionals. Odontology. 2018 Apr;106:103-16.
- Myckatyn TM, Mackinnon SE. A review of facial nerve anatomy. InSeminars in plastic surgery 2004 Feb (Vol. 18, No. 01, pp. 5-11). Copyright© 2004 by Thieme Medical Publishers, Inc., 333 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001 USA..
- Stjernquist-Desatnik A, Skoog E, Aurelius E. Detection of herpes simplex and varicella-zoster viruses in patients with Bell's palsy by the polymerase chain reaction technique. Annals of Otology, Rhinology & Laryngology. 2006 Apr;115(4):306-11.
- Ciorba A, Corazzi V, Conz V, Bianchini C, Aimoni C. Facial nerve paralysis in children. World journal of clinical cases. 2015 Dec 16;3(12):973.
- Kim SJ, Lee HY. Acute peripheral facial palsy: recent guidelines and a systematic review of the literature. Journal of Korean medical science. 2020 Aug 3;35(30).