Effectiveness of facial exercise therapy for facial nerve dysfunction after superficial parotidectomy: a randomized controlled trial

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To compare the effectiveness of a daily home-based facial exercise therapy with a supervised rehabilitation technique for the treatment of postoperative facial dysfunction in patients undergoing conventional superficial parotidectomy.


Prospective, randomized trial, controlled.


Surgery and Rehabilitation Units, university hospital.


Consecutive patients (n=79, mean age 48 years) who underwent superficial parotidectomy with facial nerve dissection were randomly divided into two groups.


Control group (CG) were given a daily homework manual to perform ordinary postoperative facial mimic exercises autonomously in front of the mirror at home. Experimental group (EG) patients with moderate-severe paresis received supervised rehabilitation therapy that consisted in weekly sessions with facial exercises and massages and performed daily facial exercises at home. EG patients with slight paresis were instructed to undertake self-massage and mirror exercises.

Main outcome measures:

Postoperative dysfunction of facial nerve and branches was quantified measuring the prevalence, magnitude and duration of paresis by the House-Brackmann Facial Nerve Grading System up to 12th months.


Facial paresis incidence at 1st week was 77.2%, being the marginal-mandibular nerve the most affected (64.5%). No statistically significant differences were found at any time of the study when comparing the frequency, magnitude and duration of paresis between EG and CG and among patients who had presented moderate-severe paresis. In the absence of intraoperative nerve injury, complete recovery of facial mobility was observed within 12 months, regardless of treatment group.


Rehabilitation therapy and mirror facial exercises performed autonomously at home were equally effective for postoperative functional recovery.

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