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JOURNAL ARTICLE

Electrical stimulation as a therapeutic option to improve eyelid function in chronic facial nerve disorders

J Gittins, K Martin, J Sheldrick, A Reddy, L Thean
Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science 1999, 40 (3): 547-54
10067956

PURPOSE: To establish whether it is possible to improve orbicularis oculi muscle function in the eyelids of patients with a chronic seventh cranial nerve palsy by using transcutaneous electrical stimulation to the point at which electrical stimulation induces a functional blink.

METHODS: Ten subjects (one woman, nine men) aged 36 to 76 with chronic, moderate to severe facial nerve palsy were recruited into the study. Voluntary and spontaneous eyelid movements were assessed, using an optical measuring system, before, during, and after a 3-month treatment period. Voluntary and spontaneous lid velocities were also measured and compared with eyelid kinematic data in normal subjects (12 women, 18 men; age range, 22-56 years).

RESULTS: Therapeutic electrical stimulation applied over 3 months produced improvement in eyelid movement (>2 mm) in 8 of 10 patients during voluntary eyelid closure. However, there was no significant improvement recorded in spontaneous blink amplitudes or peak downward-phase velocity of the upper eyelid. This regimen of stimulation failed to recover function well enough that a functional blink could be induced in the paretic eyelid by electrical stimulation.

CONCLUSIONS: Electrical stimulation using transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulators units can improve voluntary eye closure, apparently because of a reduction in stiffness of eyelid mechanics, rather than an improvement of muscle function. Investigation of alternative stimulation regimens is warranted.

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