Quality-of-life improvement after free gracilis muscle transfer for smile restoration in patients with facial paralysis

Robin W Lindsay, Prabhat Bhama, Tessa A Hadlock
JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery 2014, 16 (6): 419-24

IMPORTANCE: Facial paralysis can contribute to disfigurement, psychological difficulties, and an inability to convey emotion via facial expression. In patients unable to perform a meaningful smile, free gracilis muscle transfer (FGMT) can often restore smile function. However, little is known about the impact on disease-specific quality of life.

OBJECTIVE: To determine quantitatively whether FGMT improves quality of life in patients with facial paralysis.

DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: Prospective evaluation of 154 FGMTs performed at a facial nerve center on 148 patients with facial paralysis. The Facial Clinimetric Evaluation (FaCE) survey and Facial Assessment by Computer Evaluation software (FACE-gram) were used to quantify quality-of-life improvement, oral commissure excursion, and symmetry with smile.

INTERVENTION: Free gracilis muscle transfer.

MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: Change in FaCE score, oral commissure excursion, and symmetry with smile.

RESULTS: There were 127 successful FGMTs on 124 patients and 14 failed procedures on 13 patients. Mean (SD) FaCE score increased significantly after successful FGMT (42.30 [15.9] vs 58.5 [17.60]; paired 2-tailed t test, P < .001). Mean (SD) FACE scores improved significantly in all subgroups (nonflaccid cohort, 37.8 [19.9] vs 52.9 [19.3]; P = .02; flaccid cohort, 43.1 [15.1] vs 59.6 [17.2]; P < .001; trigeminal innervation cohort, 38.9 [14.6] vs 55.2 [18.2]; P < .001; cross-face nerve graft cohort, 47.3 [16.6] vs 61.7 [16.9]; P < .001) except the failure cohort (36.5 [20.8] vs 33.5 [17.9]; Wilcoxon signed-rank test, P = .15). Analysis of 40 patients' photographs revealed a mean (SD) preoperative and postoperative excursion on the affected side of -0.88 (3.79) and 7.68 (3.38), respectively (P < .001); symmetry with smile improved from a mean (SD) of 13.8 (7.46) to 4.88 (3.47) (P < .001).

CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: Free gracilis muscle transfer has become a mainstay in the management armamentarium for patients with severe reduction in oral commissure movement after facial nerve insult and recovery. We found a quantitative improvement in quality of life after FGMT in patients who could not recover a meaningful smile after facial nerve insult. Quality-of-life improvement was not statistically different between donor nerve groups or facial paralysis types.

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