Effects of electrical stimulation on House-Brackmann scores in early Bell's palsy

Physiother Theory Pract. 2010 Apr 22;26(3):160-6. doi: 10.3109/09593980902886339.


ABSTRACT Limited evidence may support the application of electrical stimulation in the subacute and chronic stages of facial palsy, yet some physiotherapists in South Africa have been applying this modality in the acute stage in the absence of published evidence of clinical efficacy. This preliminary study's aim was to determine the safety and potential efficacy of applying electrical stimulation to the facial muscles during the early phase of Bells palsy. A pretest posttest control vs. experimental groups design composed of 16 patients with Bell's palsy of less than 30 days' duration. Adult patients with clinical diagnosis of Bell's palsy were systematically (every second patient) allocated to the control and experimental groups. Each group (n = 8) was pretested and posttested using the House-Brackmann index. Both groups were treated with heat, massage, exercises, and a home program. The experimental group also received electrical stimulation. The House-Brackmann Scale of the control group improved between 17% and 50% with a mean of 30%. The scores of the experimental group ranged between 17% and 75% with a mean of 37%. The difference between the groups was not statistically significant (two-tailed p = 0.36). Electrical stimulation as used in this study during the acute phase of Bell's palsy is safe but may not have added value over spontaneous recovery and multimodal physiotherapy. A larger sample size or longer stimulation time or both should be investigated.

Publication types

  • Controlled Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Bell Palsy / diagnosis
  • Bell Palsy / physiopathology
  • Bell Palsy / therapy*
  • Child
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Exercise Therapy
  • Facial Muscles / innervation
  • Facial Muscles / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Hot Temperature
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Massage
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurologic Examination*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Recovery of Function
  • South Africa
  • Time Factors
  • Transcutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation* / adverse effects
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult