Comparison between VII-to-VII and XII-to-VII coaptation techniques for early facial nerve reanimation after surgical intra-cranial injuries: a systematic review and pooled analysis of the functional outcomes

Neurosurg Rev. 2021 Feb;44(1):153-161. doi: 10.1007/s10143-019-01231-z. Epub 2020 Jan 7.


The surgical injury of the intracranial portion of the facial nerve (FN) is a severe complication of many skull base procedures, and it represents a relevant issue in terms of patients' discomfort, social interactions, risk for depression, and social costs. The aim of this study was to investigate the surgical and functional outcomes of the most common facial nerve rehabilitation techniques. The present study is a systematic review of the pertinent literature, according to the PRISMA guidelines. Two different online medical databases (PubMed, Scopus) were screened for studies reporting the functional outcome, measured by the House-Brackman (HB) scale, and complications, in FN early reanimation, following surgical injuries on its intracranial portion. Data on the VII-to-VII and XII-to-VII coaptation, the surgical technique, the use of a nerve graft, the duration of the deficit, and complications were collected and pooled. The XII-to-VII end-to-side coaptation seems to provide higher chances for functional restoration (HB 1-3) than the VII-to-VII (68.8% vs 60.6%), regardless of the duration of the palsy deficit, the use or not of a nerve graft, and the use of stitches or glues. However, its complication rate was as high as 28.6%, and a second procedure is then often needed. The XII-to-VII side-to-end coaptation is the most effective in providing a functional outcome (HB 1-3), even though it is associated to a higher complication rate. Further trials are needed to better investigate this relevant topic, in terms of health-related social costs and patients' quality of life.

Keywords: Acoustic neuroma; Facial nerve; Facial reanimation; Microsurgery; Peripheral nerve; Skull base.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Facial Nerve / surgery*
  • Facial Nerve Injuries / etiology*
  • Facial Nerve Injuries / rehabilitation
  • Facial Nerve Injuries / surgery*
  • Facial Paralysis / etiology
  • Facial Paralysis / surgery
  • Humans
  • Hypoglossal Nerve / surgery*
  • Neurosurgical Procedures / adverse effects*
  • Neurosurgical Procedures / methods*
  • Postoperative Complications / surgery*
  • Skull Base / surgery
  • Treatment Outcome