Thousands of New Yorkers every year will suffer some form of facial paralysis, a diagnosis with many causes which can greatly affect a person’s appearance and day-to-day functioning.
Recognizing that patients with facial paralysis have complex needs, NYU Langone Health has launched a new, comprehensive center offering personalized treatments for facial paralysis, or palsy. Jeffrey D. Markey, MD, has joined NYU Langone as inaugural director of the Facial Paralysis and Reanimation Center within the Department of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery.
The center seeks to provide full-service, multidisciplinary management with the most cutting-edge and effective treatments for adults and children with facial paralysis, building on an already outstanding collaborative partnership across specialties including otolaryngology, plastic surgery, ophthalmology, neurology, and rehabilitation medicine.
“We are excited to welcome Dr. Markey to lead our newly created Facial Paralysis and Reanimation Center, which underscores NYU Langone’s commitment to providing top-level multidisciplinary care to every patient,” says J. Thomas Roland Jr., MD, chair and Mendik Foundation Professor of Otolaryngology in the Department of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery, and professor in the Department of Neurosurgery. “Dr. Markey will be a significant asset in driving this collaborative team to continue to advance treatment of facial paralysis, a diagnosis which can greatly impact a person’s health and quality of life and can have serious long-term complications if not treated.”
Facial paralysis, a loss of facial movement due to nerve damage or dysfunction, can cause people to lose the ability to smile, blink, hold food in their mouth, or perform other facial motions. It can be present from birth, or can occur—suddenly or gradually over time—as the result of a traumatic accident or viral illness such as Bell’s palsy, a skull base or head and neck tumor, or stroke. The symptoms, which include facial weakness, immobility, involuntary movement, or drooping of the brow or mouth, can have a significant effect on someone’s physical appearance as well as their ability to convey emotion, speak, eat, and drink.
“Many patients come to us already exhausted from visits to different specialists, some having lived with their facial palsy for months or even years,” says Dr. Markey. “Every patient presents a highly specific set of issues regarding his or her facial paralysis, which requires an individual treatment approach. The Facial Paralysis and Reanimation Center will serve as a single entry point for any patient from which we will provide them specialized, comprehensive care to address their unique needs.”
The center will hold bimonthly conferences with specialists across NYU Langone, including experts in otolaryngology, facial plastic and reconstructive surgery, otology, neurological disorders of the ear, and head and neck surgery, in order to devise the best treatment solutions for each patient.
Treatments may include botulinum toxin injection, upper eyelid weight placement to enable blinking, and brow and facelifts, among others. If necessary, surgeons can use treatments including new and sophisticated techniques that involve the transfer of nerves, muscles, and tendons from elsewhere in the body, including the thigh or back, to improve facial symmetry. In addition to hypoglossal nerve transfer, which has been traditionally used to treat facial paralysis, surgeons can also use the masseteric nerve—which innervates the masseter muscle to control chewing—or the facial nerve from the opposite, healthy side to reanimate facial muscles that control smiling and other movements.
After receiving their medical or surgical treatment, patients can be referred to the outpatient facial retraining program, as well as receive any necessary therapy from a speech–language pathologist, at NYU Langone’s Rusk Rehabilitation.
Alongside its clinical services, Dr. Markey will lead research efforts to develop innovative and data-driven treatment paradigms for patients with complicated facial nerve disorders.