Published on June 21, 2012 at 12:51 PM
Before-and-after photographs showed that the gracilis flap procedure was successful in restoring the patients' ability to smile. Sophisticated geometrical measurements found a significant increase in the ability to lift the oral commissure on the paralyzed side. Just a few millimeters meant the difference between no movement and a natural-looking smile.
"When questioned about their impressions of their faces, the patients uniformly expressed a dramatic improvement in their ability to express happiness nonverbally," the researchers write. Patients also had significant improvement in scores on a quality of life questionnaire.
Some patients said that the procedure restored the ability to smile spontaneously. That's a potentially important advantage, because while other procedures can restore facial motion, the patient has to make a conscious effort to smile.
Although the study is small, it shows that the gracilis muscle flap is an effective treatment for the facial paralysis in patients with NF2, Dr Vakharia and coauthors believe. They remind all professionals involved in the care of patients with this "devastating complication" to incorporate some type of facial rehabilitation therapy into their treatment plan.