Patients with facial paralysis benefit from new therapy

by Dental Tribune International
JENA, Germany: More than 70,000 patients in Germany alone are affected by facial paralysis following injury or surgery. A new interdisciplinary therapeutic approach that combines physiotherapy, physiology and behavioural medicine may relieve the symptoms, which impair patients’ quality of life significantly.

The therapy entails recording the electrical activity of facial muscles using electrodes placed near a patient’s eye or corners of the mouth. The activity is graphically visualised on a screen and can be observed by both patient and therapist. In addition, facial expressions are recorded on camera to help patients learn the movements.

The therapy was developed at the facial nerve centre at the Jena University Hospital’s ENT clinic, which is collaborating with various medical institutions to improve diagnostics and treatment of facial nerve disorders. According to Dr Orlando Guntinas-Lichius, director of the clinic, the collaboration, which was started in 2012, is unique in Europe.

For a year already, the centre has been offering the new treatment. Through various exercises, the recording of the electrical activity of the facial muscles and the respective neuro-feedback, the patients learned how to control all of their facial muscles in a new and better way, according to the centre. They trained three to four hours per day for more than two weeks at the clinic with a specialised team of ENT doctors, neurologists and physiologists.

“The first patients who were treated with this innovative therapy were very satisfied with the results. They were amazed that a significant improvement in facial activity and asymmetry could be achieved even years after the onset of paralysis,” said Eva Miltner, the physiotherapist who led the training.

Facial nerve disorders can arise owing to accidents, viruses or tumours. However, they can also be negative side-effects of head surgeries and are associated with disfigurement and limitation of face muscle function. Often, the symmetry of the face is affected and most patients have difficulty speaking and eating or cannot close their mouth completely. In addition, they cannot express emotions on the affected side.
Key Words: dental, dentist, dentistry, facial paralysis, therapy

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