Cutaneous electrical stimulation treatment in unresolved facial nerve paralysis: an exploratory study

Am J Phys Med Rehabil. 2008 Dec;87(12):992-7. doi: 10.1097/PHM.0b013e318186bc74.


Objective: The purpose of this study was to assess clinical and neurophysiological changes after 6 mos of transcutaneous electrical stimulation in patients with unresolved facial nerve paralysis.

Design: A pilot case series of 10 consecutive patients with chronic facial nerve paralysis either of idiopathic origin or because of herpes zoster oticus participated in this open study. All patients received below sensory threshold transcutaneous electrical stimulation for 6 mos for their facial nerve paralysis. The intervention consisted of gradually increasing the duration of electrical stimulation of three sites on the affected area for up to 6 hrs/day. Assessments of the facial nerve function were performed using the House-Brackmann clinical scale and neurophysiological measurements of compound motor action potential distal latencies on the affected and nonaffected sides. Patients were tested before and after the intervention.

Results: A significant improvement was observed in the facial nerve upper branch compound motor action potential distal latency on the affected side in all patients. An improvement of one grade in House-Brackmann scale was observed and some patients also reported subjective improvement.

Conclusions: Transcutaneous electrical stimulation treatment may have a positive effect on unresolved facial nerve paralysis. This study illustrates a possibly effective treatment option for patients with the chronic facial paresis with no other expectations of recovery.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Bell Palsy / rehabilitation*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Facial Paralysis / rehabilitation*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Recovery of Function
  • Transcutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation*