Facial synkinesis: A distressing sequela of facial palsy

Tom Shokri, Shivam Patel, Kasra Ziai, Jonathan Harounian, Jessyka G. Lighthall

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

Introduction: Synkinesis refers to abnormal involuntary facial movements that accompany volitional facial movements. Despite a 55% incidence of synkinesis reported in patients with enduring facial paralysis, there is still a lack of complete understanding of this debilitating condition, leading to functional limitations and decreased quality of life. 1 This article reviews the diagnostic assessment, etiology, pathophysiology, rehabilitation, and nonsurgical and surgical treatments for facial synkinesis. Methods: A PubMed and Cochrane search was done with no date restrictions for English-language literature on facial synkinesis. The search terms used were “facial,” “synkinesis,” “palsy,” and various combinations of the terms. Results: The resultant inability to control the full extent of one’s facial movements has functional and psychosocial consequences and may result in social withdrawal with a significant decrease in quality of life. An understanding of facial mimetic musculature is imperative in guiding appropriate intervention. While chemodenervation with botulinum toxin and neurorehabilitation have continued to be the primary treatment strategy for facial synkinesis, novel techniques such as selective myectomy, selective neurolysis, free-functioning muscle transfer, and nerve grafting techniques are becoming increasingly utilized in treatment regimens. Facial rehabilitation, including neuromuscular retraining, soft tissue massage, and relaxation therapy in addition to chemodenervation with botulinum toxin, remains the cornerstone of treatment. In cases of severe, intractable synkinesis and non-flaccid facial paralysis, surgical interventions, including selective neurectomy, selective myectomy, nerve grafting, or free muscle transfer, may play a more significant role in alleviating symptoms. Discussion: A multidisciplinary approach involving therapists, clinicians, and surgeons is necessary to develop a comprehensive treatment regimen that will result in optimal outcomes. Ultimately, therapy should be tailored to the severity and pattern of synkinesis, and each patient approached on a case-by-case basis. A multidisciplinary approach involving therapists, clinicians, and surgeons is necessary to develop a comprehensive treatment regimen that will result in optimal outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalEar, Nose and Throat Journal
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Otorhinolaryngology

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