Sat. May 18th, 2024

Best Life: New Surgery allows children with facial paralysis to smile

By Ivanhoe Newswire

CLEVELAND, Ohio (Ivanhoe Newswire) – How many times a day do you smile? Research shows that children smile an average of 400 times a day. But what if your child physically could not smile?

Babies born with facial paralysis cannot control their muscles in the face. Until now, there was little doctors could do for them. A pioneering procedure is now allowing children to show off their beautiful smiles.

Born with unilateral congenital facial paralysis, Nicole Serena-Gonzalez grew up not able to move the right side of her face. Her parents feared what the future may hold for their fun-loving little girl.

“Most kids don’t come with the intention of being mean; it’s the way they phrase it that might hurt her feelings sometimes,” said Nicole’s mother, Carolina Gonzalez.

Until now, surgeons have used techniques to improve the function of the facial muscles, but are looking into a way to “a full range of human emotion.”

A team at the Cleveland Clinic pioneered a new type of procedure called a Tri-Vector Gracilis Free Tissue Transfer.

“The goal was that we would restore a full smile as well as a linked movement around the eyes,” said Patrick Byrne, MD Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic.

Dr. Byrne took the sural nerve from Nicole’s lower leg and connected it from Nicole’s functional left side to the paralyzed right side.

“It’s kind of like taking an appliance and plugging into a functional outlet on the other side of the room because that’s where the power’s coming from,” said Dr. Byrne.

He also took a band of muscles from Nicole’s left thigh and inserted part near her lip, part near the corner of her mouth, and another part near her eye. And now, a year after surgery, she’s got a lot to smile about.

“I love my smile. It improved a lot,” said Nicole.

Over the next few years, Nicole’s facial control will continue to improve and her movements will become more natural.

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