Objective: This study investigated whether magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) patterns were different between patients with Bell's palsy and those with herpetic facial palsy in whom varicella-zoster virus (VZV) or herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) reactivation had been confirmed by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or serologic assay.
Study design: A retrospective study of 15 patients with acute peripheral facial palsy was performed to compare virologic tests and gadolinium (Gd)-enhanced MRI findings.
Results: Ramsay Hunt syndrome was diagnosed in one patient. By use of virologic tests, zoster sine herpete (VZV reactivation without zoster) was diagnosed in four patients and HSV-1 reactivation in three. Bell's palsy was diagnosed in the remaining seven patients. No significant difference in the frequency of Gd-enhanced MRI was observed between herpetic facial palsy and Bell's palsy. However, in those patients who underwent MRI on the day viral reactivation was confirmed by PCR, Gd enhancement of the meatal fundus was observed infrequently. In addition, when MRI was performed within 10 days of the onset of palsy, Gd enhancement was not detected at the geniculate ganglion in any patients with herpetic facial palsy. By contrast, both the meatal fundus and the geniculate ganglion were enhanced in all patients with Bell's palsy, regardless of when MRI was performed with respect to the onset of palsy.
Conclusion: This study shows a difference in the pattern of Gd enhancement at the meatal fundus and the geniculate ganglion between patients with Bell's palsy and those with herpetic facial palsy. The results suggest that the meatal fundus or the geniculate ganglion may be affected first by virus reactivation in patients with herpetic facial palsy.