Everything You Need to Know About Facial Reanimation

The movements of your face — smiling, frowning, chewing, furrowing your brow — are largely controlled by your facial nerve, one of the largest cranial nerves you have. Your facial nerve powers motor, sensory, taste, and parasympathetic functions. That is, it allows you to move your face, feel things like wind and heat, taste food, and even produce tears and mucus. 

If something goes wrong with your facial nerve, such as nerve damage or trauma, you may experience errors in those functions, as well as asymmetry in your face. Thankfully, advances in medical care have come to facial reanimation surgery, a reconstructive procedure that Dr. Elliot H. Rose offers patients at his Upper East Side, Manhattan, clinic

What is facial reanimation? 

Put simply, facial reanimation is a type of surgery that restores movement, function, and symmetry to your face after you have sustained nerve damage or trauma. This procedure revitalizes your ability to talk, chew, drink, and — perhaps most importantly of all — to smile. 

Types of facial reanimation

Dr. Rose can perform a number of procedures to restore movement to your face. Some involve moving facial nerves, and some involve moving tendons or muscles. Dr. Rose may determine that you need one or more of the following procedures to optimally restore facial function:

Temporalis Tendon Transfer (T3): 

Dr. Rose moves your temporalis muscle and tendon from one location to another.

Fascia Lata Graft: 

Dr. Rose uses a portion of a tendon in your thigh to create an “inner scaffolding” that supports and balances your facial features. 

Gracilis Muscle Transplant (Gracilis Free Flap): 

Dr. Rose transfers a small portion of one of your inner thigh muscles (the gracilis) to replace a portion of muscle in your face. 

Cross-Facial Nerve Graft: 

Dr. Rose moves a nerve from one side of your face to the other. This allows a transplanted muscle to contract.

Masseteric Muscle Transfer: 

Dr. Rose reroutes a branch of the muscle that helps you chew. 

Hypoglossal Nerve Transfer: 

Dr. Rose relocates the portion of your facial nerve that moves the tongue to allow a transplanted muscle to contract. 

Who needs facial reanimation? 

Anyone with partial or complete facial paralysis can benefit from facial reanimation. Dr. Rose often sees adult patients who’ve suffered through Lyme disease, Bell’s palsy, acoustic neuroma, stroke, or other significant trauma. Dr. Rose also helps children who have sustained facial paralysis as a birth defect or after brain tumor extraction. 

Recovery from facial reanimation

Most of the time, facial reanimation surgery is an outpatient procedure. After your surgery, you’ll wake from the anesthesia in the recovery room. You’ll need someone to drive you home from the clinic. Dr. Rose will give you detailed post-op instructions, along with a prescription for pain medication to make the first few days of recovery easier. 

You can expect to resume your normal activities two to three weeks after your surgery, and you can expect movement of your face around four to six weeks. After you adequately recover, Dr. Rose will refer you to a physical therapist who will help you re-learn how to move and use your face. You may also need a minor secondary surgery a few months after your initial procedure to address cosmetic concerns. 

Am I a good candidate for facial reanimation?

You may qualify for facial reanimation surgery if you have little to no movement in your face, particularly your smile and your eyes, or if you can’t eat or drink due to paralysis. After your consultation appointment, Dr. Rose will determine if you’re a good candidate for facial reanimation. If you are, he’ll develop a comprehensive, customized treatment plan to get you the best results. 

To learn more about facial reanimation or find out if you qualify for the surgery, call Dr. Rose today (332-255-5375), or book your consultation online.

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