Effectiveness and safety of the use of gracilis muscle for dynamic smile restoration in facial paralysis: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Mélissa Roy, Joseph P Corkum, Prakesh S Shah, Gregory H Borschel, Emily S Ho, Ronald M Zuker, Kristen M Davidge
Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive & Aesthetic Surgery: JPRAS 2019, 72 (8): 1254-1264

BACKGROUND: Smiling is a fundamental component of social interactions. Significant challenges arise for patients with facial palsy. One of the key procedures for dynamic smile restoration is the microneurovascular transfer of a gracilis muscle. We aimed to assess the effectiveness and safety of dynamic smile reanimation surgery using the free gracilis muscle unit in patients with facial palsy.

METHODS: We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies reporting surgical outcomes of dynamic smile restoration using free gracilis muscles identified from EMBASE, Medline, and Web of Science databases from their inception to March 15, 2018. Two-stage screening and data extraction were performed by two independent reviewers. Pooled proportions were calculated using random-effects models.

RESULTS: Thirty-one studies including 1647 patients who underwent 1739 free gracilis flaps were included. Twelve (38.7%) studies measured perioperative smile excursion change using six different tools. Six of these studies were homogeneous and were used in meta-analyses of smile excursion improvement, which revealed a mean change of 7.5 mm (95% CI 6.0-9.0 mm, I2 86.7%) perioperatively. Twenty (64.5%) studies reported perioperative complications, and pooled proportions of flap failures were of 2.9% (95% CI 1.3-4.5%, I2 47.7%).

CONCLUSIONS: Dynamic smile restoration using a free gracilis muscle may represent an effective procedure to regain oral commissure motion and is associated with an approximately 3% rate of flap failure. Masseteric nerve coaptations lead to larger improvements in perioperative smile excursion (10 mm) than cross-facial nerve grafts (6.8 mm). Future studies with homogeneous reporting of smile excursion and patient-reported outcome measures are needed.

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