Free gracilis transfer for smile in children: the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Experience in excursion and quality-of-life changes

Arch Facial Plast Surg. May-Jun 2011;13(3):190-4. doi: 10.1001/archfacial.2011.29.


Background: Free muscle transfer for facial reanimation has become the standard of care in recent decades and is now the cornerstone intervention for dynamic smile reanimation. We sought to quantify smile excursion and quality-of-life (QOL) changes in our pediatric free gracilis recipients following reanimation.

Methods: We quantified gracilis muscle excursion in 17 pediatric patients undergoing 19 consecutive pediatric free gracilis transplantation operations, using our validated SMILE program, as an objective measure of functional outcome. These were compared against excursion measured the same way in a cohort of 17 adults with 19 free gracilis operations. In addition, we prospectively evaluated QOL outcomes in these children using the Facial Clinimetric Evaluation (FaCE) instrument.

Results: The mean gracilis excursion in our pediatric free gracilis recipients was 8.8 mm ± 5.0 mm, which matched adult results, but with fewer complete failures of less than 2-mm excursion, with 2 (11%) and 4 (21%), respectively. Quality-of-life measures indicated statistically significant improvements following dynamic smile reanimation (P = .01).

Conclusions: Dynamic facial reanimation using free gracilis transfer in children has an acceptable success rate, yields improved commissure excursion, and improves QOL in the pediatric population. It should be considered first-line therapy for children with lack of a meaningful smile secondary to facial paralysis.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Facial Paralysis / surgery*
  • Female
  • Free Tissue Flaps*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Massachusetts
  • Microsurgery / methods*
  • Microsurgery / psychology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / transplantation*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality of Life*
  • Reconstructive Surgical Procedures / methods*
  • Reconstructive Surgical Procedures / psychology
  • Smiling*
  • Thigh
  • Treatment Outcome