Objective: The aim of this study was to determine the efficacy of electrical stimulation when added to conventional physical therapy with regard to clinical and neurophysiologic changes in patients with Bell palsy.
Design: This was a randomized controlled trial. Sixty patients diagnosed with Bell palsy (39 right sided, 21 left sided) were included in the study. Patients were randomly divided into two therapy groups. Group 1 received physical therapy applying hot pack, facial expression exercises, and massage to the facial muscles, whereas group 2 received electrical stimulation treatment in addition to the physical therapy, 5 days per week for a period of 3 wks. Patients were evaluated clinically and electrophysiologically before treatment (at the fourth week of the palsy) and again 3 mos later. Outcome measures included the House-Brackmann scale and Facial Disability Index scores, as well as facial nerve latencies and amplitudes of compound muscle action potentials derived from the frontalis and orbicularis oris muscles.
Results: Twenty-nine men (48.3%) and 31 women (51.7%) with Bell palsy were included in the study. In group 1, 16 (57.1%) patients had no axonal degeneration and 12 (42.9%) had axonal degeneration, compared with 17 (53.1%) and 15 (46.9%) patients in group 2, respectively. The baseline House-Brackmann and Facial Disability Index scores were similar between the groups. At 3 mos after onset, the Facial Disability Index scores were improved similarly in both groups. The classification of patients according to House-Brackmann scale revealed greater improvement in group 2 than in group 1. The mean motor nerve latencies and compound muscle action potential amplitudes of both facial muscles were statistically shorter in group 2, whereas only the mean motor latency of the frontalis muscle decreased in group 1.
Conclusions: The addition of 3 wks of daily electrical stimulation shortly after facial palsy onset (4 wks), improved functional facial movements and electrophysiologic outcome measures at the 3-mo follow-up in patients with Bell palsy. Further research focused on determining the most effective dosage and length of intervention with electrical stimulation is warranted.