Electrophysiologic evaluation of the facial nerve in Bell's palsy. A review

D. Dumitru, N. E. Walsh, L. D. Porter

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Facial nerve paralysis is the most common neuropathy and idiopathic facial paralysis (Bell's palsy) the most common seventh nerve disease electromyographers may be asked to evaluate. The electrophysiologic method of choice to assess the facial nerve is side-to-side evoked amplitude comparison with the affected side expressed as a percentage of the nonaffected side. This examination should be performed on days 3, 5, 7, 9, 11 and 13 after onset of paralysis. If the percentage of surviving axons falls below 10% within the first 14 days, an incomplete recovery is suggested. Electromyography may assist in prognosticating a functional return, determining neural conduction across the site of injury and following reinnervation in the recovery period. The persistance of early return of an absent R1 component of the blink reflex may qualitatively suggest a satisfactory functional outcome in facial paralysis. Supramaximally exciting the facial nerve at the stylomastoid foramen and comparing the clinical response on the affected and nonaffected side, maximum stimulation test, can also predict eventual seventh nerve return. Observing a minimal twitch, utilizing the nerve excitability test or measuring the facial nerve latency have yielded poor correlations with functional return and are of limited usefulness in the prognostication of acute facial palsies. Trigeminal somatosensory evoked potentials can be employed to evaluate the status of the trigeminal nerve as approximately 50% of patients with Bell's palsy also have lesions involving the fifth nerve. Side-to-side amplitude comparison and electromyography are the two most valuable electrophysiologic methods of assessing facial nerve functioning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)137-144
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation


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