Restoration of Trigeminal Cutaneous Sensation with Cross-Face Sural Nerve Grafts: A Novel Approach to Facial Sensory Rehabilitation

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Summary:Although treating facial palsy is considered debilitating for patients, trigeminal nerve palsy and sensory deficits of the face are overlooked components of disability. Complete anesthesia leaves patients susceptible to occult injury, and facial sensation is an important component of interaction and activities of daily living. Sensory reconstruction is well established in the restoration of hand sensation; however, only one previous report proposed a surgical strategy for sensory nerve reconstruction of the face with use of nerve transfers. Nerve transfers, when used alone, have limited application because of their restricted arc of rotation in the face; extending their arc by adding nerve grafts greatly expands their utility. The following cases demonstrate the early results after V2 and V3 reconstruction with cross-face nerve grafts in three patients with acquired trigeminal nerve palsy. Cross-face nerve grafts using the sural nerve permit more proximal reconstruction of the infraorbital and mental nerves, which allows reinnervation of their entire cutaneous distribution. All patients demonstrated improved sensation in the reconstructed dermatomes, and no patients reported donor-site abnormalities. Cross-face nerve grafts result in minimal donor-site morbidity and are promising as a surgical strategy to address sensory deficits of the face.CLINICAL QUESTION/LEVEL OF EVIDENCE:Therapeutic, V.

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