Physical Therapy for Iatrogenic Facial Paralysis: A Systematic Review

Nneoma S. Wamkpah, Latoya Jeanpierre, Judith E.C. Lieu, Drew Del Toro, Laura E. Simon, John J. Chi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Importance: Facial paralysis (FP) after surgery has substantial functional, emotional, and financial consequences. Most iatrogenic FP is managed by watchful waiting, with the expectation of facial function recovery. A potential treatment is physical therapy (PT). Objective: To investigate whether noninvasive PT compared with no PT or other intervention improves facial nerve outcomes in adults with iatrogenic FP. Evidence Review: Patients with noniatrogenic FP, facial reanimation surgery, and invasive adjunctive treatments (acupuncture or botulinum toxin injection) were excluded. A systematic review was conducted for records discussing iatrogenic FP and PT; a search for these records was performed using Ovid MEDLINE (1946-2019), Embase (1947-2019), Scopus (1823-2019), Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, World Health Organization International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (2004-2019), and (1997-2019). The references of all the included articles were also assessed for eligible studies. All human participant, English-language study designs with at least 2 cases were included. Quality assessment was performed using the Methodological Index for Non-randomized Studies (MINORS) and the revised Cochrane Risk of Bias 2 (RoB 2) tool for randomized controlled trials. All search strategies were completed on May 16, 2019, and again on October 1, 2019. Findings: Fifteen studies (7 of which were retrospective cohort studies) and 313 patients with iatrogenic FP were included in the systematic review. Most iatrogenic FP (166 patients [53%]) was associated with parotidectomy; traditional PT (ie, facial massage) was the most common intervention (196 patients [63%]). The use of various facial grading systems and inconsistent reporting of outcomes prevented direct comparison of PT types. Conclusions and Relevance: Because of heterogeneity in reported outcomes of facial nerve recovery, definitive conclusions were unable to be made regarding the association between PT and outcomes of iatrogenic FP. Physical therapy probably has benefit and is associated with no harm in patients with iatrogenic FP.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1065-1072
Number of pages8
JournalJAMA Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2020


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