Conditions We Treat – Bell’s Palsy
What is Bell’s Palsy?
Bell’s Palsy is a sudden weakness on one side of your face. It happens when a nerve in your face (called the facial nerve) swells and gets compressed.
- Bell’s Palsy affects only one side of your face
- It is a lower motor neurone problem
- That side of your face becomes weak and droops
- Treatment usually involves medicine called corticosteroids to decrease the swelling of the nerve
- Most people with Bell palsy get better within several months, even without treatment
What causes Bell’s Palsy?
Doctors don’t always know what causes Bell’s Palsy. An infection may cause the nerve to swell. In some cases, it’s caused by a virus like those that cause shingles, cold sores, mono, or the flu.
What are the symptoms of Bell’s Palsy?
Symptoms start suddenly, usually within hours. Within 48 to 72 hours, your symptoms are as bad as they’ll get.
Bell’s Palsy weakens the muscles on one side of your face. Sometimes you have a little pain behind your ear before the weakness starts. The weakness may range from mild weakness to a total inability to move, called paralysis. On your weak side, you may have:
- A hard time making an expression, such as wrinkling your forehead, blinking, or smiling
- Numbness or a heavy feeling
- Trouble closing your eye, causing it to become dry
- Dry mouth or drooling
- Trouble tasting with the front part of your tongue
- Hearing that makes sounds seem louder than usual
- Your facial nerve may not always heal the right way. This can cause unusual face movements or watery eyes. Sometimes, your facial muscles may stay tight.
How can doctors tell if I have Bell’s Palsy?
If you start noticing signs of Bell’s Palsy, see a doctor as soon as possible. Some other conditions, such as a stroke or Lyme disease, are more serious than Bell’s Palsy and can cause similar symptoms.
The doctor will examine you to diagnose Bell’s Palsy. There’s no specific test for Bell’s Palsy. To confirm your symptoms aren’t caused by something else, your doctor may do tests:
- Blood tests
- MRI or CT scans of your brain
How do doctors treat Bell’s Palsy?
Most people who have Bell’s Palsy recover completely, without treatment, in several months
Some people who have severe Bell’s Palsy and can’t move one side of their face at all may not recover fully
If you’ve had symptoms for less than 48 hours, doctors may give you medicine called a corticosteroid that can make full recovery even more likely
If you cannot close your eye all the way, your doctor may give you eye drops or a patch to protect your eye from drying out too much
Clinical aspects of the investigational treatment
A/Professor Russell Vickers has published on the use of Stem Cells in Facial pain. There have been some articles published on the use of stem cells in Bell’s Palsy but these articles are investigational only and the only inference to be gained is that they have documented a case report.
Olympus Stem Cells in association with Olympus Maxillofacial Care would consider enrolling patients in an investigational trial in the use of Stem Cells in Bell’s Palsy. We would restrict the trial to patients where the Bell’s Palsy is of at least 12 months duration and there has been no improvement in facial re-animation (movement). We would recommend the use of Stem Cells in at least patients with a clinical disorder according to The House-Brackmann scale of at least 4, 5 or 6 (moderate, severe or nil facial function).
Owing to the importance of injecting stem cells close to or around the facial nerve we would undertake an open operation where the facial nerve is exposed under general anaesthesia and the facial nerve wrapped in a collagen tube or small gelfoam resorbable pad soaked in stem cells. The stem cells would be harvested simultaneously and processed while the facial nerve is exposed. The combined length of surgery would be approximately 2 hours and you could go home at the end of the day or spend 1 night in hospital.
Olympus Maxillofacial Care (Dr Peter Vickers) has had wide experience in undertaking exposure of the facial nerve in operations involving the removal of parotid gland tumours where the exposure of the facial nerve is always undertaken. Nevertheless you should be warned that any operation involving the facial nerve comes with a warning that the symptoms could worsen.
The surgery, alternatives to surgery and possible complications of surgery will be explained to you at your consultation appointment. Olympus Stem Cells reiterate that this procedure is investigational only and they are aware that no other clinic or hospital in Australia presently offers this treatment. It is a requirement that you agree to be enrolled in the clinical trial. See references below-
Olympus Treatment Planning
We would require you to give a good history of your condition and undergo examination to ascertain your facial nerve palsy. Olympus would harvest 20-30cc’s of fat from your abdomen under local anaesthesiae or general anaesthesiae and then convert the fat to stem cells and stromal vascular fraction. We would then inject the stem cells and SVF around the facial nerve. In all likelihood and excluding a medical condition precluding you from surgery the stem cells and SVF are injected and lavaged around the facial nerve.
Although there has been isolated reports in the literature of this being a successful procedure, NO guarantee is given nor expressed by Olympus as to the effectiveness of this treatment. Olympus Stem Cells Pty Ltd require the patient to fully investigate the proposed treatment and be satisfied that they are fully informed. The FDA in the USA and the TGA in Australia make no statements that this procedure is effective as not enough clinical trials have been performed. Always seek a second medical and surgical opinion.