Powering the Gracilis for Facial Reanimation: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Outcomes Based on Donor Nerve

Peter M. Vila, Dorina Kallogjeri, Lauren H. Yaeger, John J. Chi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Importance: Free gracilis transfer for dynamic reanimation in chronic facial paralysis is the gold standard, but there remains a need to better understand outcomes with respect to the donor nerve. Objective: To characterize outcomes in adults undergoing primary gracilis transfer for facial paralysis stratified by donor nerve used for neurotization. Data Sources: Search strategies were used in Ovid MEDLINE (1946-2019), Embase (1947-2019), Scopus (1823-2019), Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), and ClinicalTrials.gov (1997-2019). Study Selection: Inclusion and exclusion criteria were designed to capture studies in adults with unilateral chronic facial paralysis undergoing single-paddle free gracilis transfer. All study types were included except case reports. Abstracts and full texts were reviewed in duplicate. Of 130 unique citations, 10 studies including 295 patients were included after applying inclusion and exclusion criteria. Data were analyzed between November 2018 and December 2019. Data Extraction and Synthesis: PRISMA guidelines were followed. The Newcastle-Ottawa scale was used to assess study quality, and the Cochrane Risk of Bias tool was used to assess risk of bias. Independent extraction by 2 authors (P.M.V. and J.J.C.) was performed. Data were pooled using a random-effects model. Main Outcomes and Measures: Owing to heterogeneity in reporting of facial reanimation outcomes, we first performed a systematic review, and then compiled available outcomes for meta-analysis. Outcomes studied for meta-analysis were oral commissure excursion and facial symmetry. Results: Meta-analysis of masseteric nerve (MN) (n = 56) vs cross-facial nerve graft (CFNG) (n = 52) in 3 retrospective studies showed no statistical heterogeneity between these studies (I2 = 0%), and the standardized mean difference (SMD) was greater for MN (0.55; 95% CI, 0.17 to 0.94). Meta-analysis of angles of symmetry in 2 retrospective studies comparing MN (n = 51) to CFNG (n = 47) both at rest (-0.22; 95% CI,-0.63 to 0.18) and with smiling (-0.14; 95% CI,-0.73 to 0.46) were better with MN, though the difference was not statistically significant. Conclusions and Relevance: Owing to heterogeneity in reported outcomes from facial reanimation, we were unable to make definitive conclusions regarding the optimal donor nerve. Establishing a reporting standard at peer-reviewed journals to improve results reporting is one method to allow for improved collaboration in the future. Standardizing follow-up times, assessing spontaneity in an objective and reproducible fashion, and use of consistent outcome measures would allow for future meta-analyses and better understanding of options for facial reanimation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)429-436
Number of pages8
JournalJAMA Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2020


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