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Facial palsy service launched in Oxford


A new dedicated combined clinic for patients with facial palsy has been launched this month, on a trial basis, by Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust.

Facial palsy is a weakness and paralysis of the facial muscles caused by damage to the facial nerves. There are approximately 25,000 cases in the UK.

The causes are various, including congenital conditions, Bell's Palsy, tumour re-sections, and NF2 (neurofibromatosis type 2). The condition can affect adults, children and babies.

Previously, it has been hard for patients to access services other than surgery in one place. Now, patients will be able to come to one clinic at the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, where they could gain access to treatments including:

  • corrective surgery, subject to commissioner approval, including eyelids, smile operations (which also benefit other functions such as speech), and other procedures such as the use of botox on the non-paralysed side of the face to make it more symmetrical for patients with partial facial palsy on one side
  • non-surgical treatments such as facial physiotherapy
  • speech and language therapy
  • a Clinical Psychology support to deal with the psychological effects of facial paralysis
  • specialist ocular plastic surgeon input (for conditions involving the eyes).

The service, which will initially operate on a one-year trial, has been made possible by a grant from the OUH Charitable Funds' own Hospital Innovation and Enhancement Fund (HIEF).

This grant has enabled the  purchase of specialist biofeedback equipment which detects muscular activity, scores it, and rates it to show how patients are using their facial muscles, giving a scientific approach to this much-needed therapy. The service also has a dedicated facial physiotherapist, Emily McMullen.

The new clinic is being led by Mr David Johnson, Consultant Plastic Surgeon at the John Radcliffe Hospital.

He said: "This will provide state-of-the-art care for a very vulnerable group of patients, who may have felt previously that no help was available."