Purpose: The pathogenetic mechanism of Bell's palsy is thought to involve herpes simplex virus reactivation within the geniculate ganglion, followed by inflammation and entrapment of the nerve at the meatal foramen. We therefore compared the therapeutic effect of acyclovir plus steroid vs steroid alone, in combination with physical therapy, in patients with Bell's palsy.
Materials and methods: In a double-blind, randomized, prospective trial, 91 patients were randomized to treatment with acyclovir and prednisone (44 patients) or prednisone alone (47 patients). All patients underwent physical therapy. The follow-up period was greater than 6 months or encompassed the period of complete recovery from paralysis. House-Brackmann grade was evaluated 2 and 6 months after onset, with complete and satisfactory recovery defined as House-Brackmann grades I and II, respectively.
Results: The overall recovery rate of patients treated with steroid and acyclovir (93.1%) was greater than that of patients treated with steroid alone (85.1%), but the difference was not statistically significant.
Conclusion: The benefit of acyclovir in Bell's palsy has not been definitively established.