Recent study– Facial nerve study supports early therapy intervention.

Arch Facial Plast Surg.2010 May-Jun;12(3):180-5.

Daily Facial Stimulation to Improve Recovery after Facial Nerve Repair in Rats. 

Lindsay RW, Heaton JT, Edwards C, Smitson C, Vakharia K, Hadlock TA. 

Source:  Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, 243 Charles St, Boston, MA 02114, USA. robin_lindsay@meei.harvard.edu

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:  To establish whether daily mechanical stimulation improves functional recovery of whisking after facial nerve transection injury and repair in rats. 

METHODS:  Forty rats underwent facial nerve transection injury and repair and subsequent quantitative facial movement testing. Animals were randomized into 2 experimental groups (n = 20 each). Both groups received daily 5-minute manual stimulation of their whiskers, with one group undergoing whisker protraction and the other, whisker retraction. Rats were tested on postoperative weeks 1, 4 through 8, and 15 via a validated, quantitative whisking kinematics apparatus. Whisks were counted and analyzed for whisking amplitude, velocity, and acceleration. 

RESULTS:  Animals receiving manual stimulation by passive protraction of their whiskers demonstrated significantly improved functional recovery at multiple time points during the 15 weeks compared with historical controls (P < .005; 1-tailed t test). Recovery was similar in the protraction and retraction groups, trending toward better whisking recovery in the protraction group. 

CONCLUSIONS:  Daily mechanical whisker stimulation via either protraction or retraction significantly improves recovery of whisking after facial nerve transection and repair. This finding supports the role of early soft-tissue manipulation after facial nerve repair and may have clinical implications for the postoperative management of patients after facial nerve manipulations. 

PMID: 20479434 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]