Children’s Hospital Colorado is committed to providing the highest standard of plastic and reconstructive surgery to all children, from newborns to adolescents. Our team treats patients from across the Rocky Mountain region and is the most experienced team of pediatric plastic surgeons in Colorado.
As part of the Department of Pediatric Plastic Surgery, the Facial Reanimation and Movement Program at Children's Hospital Colorado treats kids with facial nerve disorders including Mobius syndrome, hemifacial microsomia and Bell’s palsy. We also perform surgery to repair nerves after traumatic injuries or following an operation, such as the surgery required to remove a brain tumor.
What does the facial nerve do?
The facial nerve controls muscles in the face that express emotions like smiling, blinking or frowning. Without control of the facial nerve, muscles don’t function normally and may cause problems. Facial nerve disorders may be congenital (meaning children are born with them) or acquired after an accident or illness.
A child may not be able to smile on both sides of the face, or their eyelids may not close. At Children’s Colorado, our plastic surgeons are dedicated to providing state-of-the-art care to kids, teens and young adults. Helping children regain the ability to express emotion can help raise their confidence, improve their psychological well-being and help them communicate better.
How do we treat facial nerve dysfunctions?
Experts at Children’s Colorado’s Facial Reanimation and Movement Program treat facial nerve disorders with leading-edge microsurgical techniques that lessen scars and shorten recovery. Available treatments include:
Nerve repair: Depending on the cause of facial paralysis and the health of the facial muscles and facial nerves, we may repair existing nerves or reconnect them using nerve grafts or nerve transfers.
Dynamic muscle transfer: To restore facial movement, surgeons transfer muscles to the face from another part of the body. The most common transfer is the transplantation of the gracilis muscle from the leg. We use microvascular surgery to connect the blood vessels and nerves from a piece of this muscle to vessels and nerves in the face. Once healed, the transplanted muscle can contract, allowing for facial expressions.
Other procedures: If facial nerve dysfunction creates asymmetry in a child’s face, procedures that lift or tighten the face or eyelids may help. These procedures include slings (tissue placed under the skin to create lift), upper eyelid weights to help eyelid closure and Botox injections to decrease overactivity of muscle contractions.
Why choose Children’s Colorado for facial reanimation and movement treatment?
Our plastic surgeons are trained to treat kids and they specialize in caring for pediatric patients with facial abnormalities and concerns. They are regionally and nationally recognized as experts in microvascular surgery, particularly for facial palsy. At Children’s Colorado, patients and families benefit from access to other pediatric specialists during preoperative evaluation and postoperative recovery, including neurologists, ophthalmologists and specialists in rehabilitation medicine.
Who we treat in our Facial Reanimation and Movement Program
We treat children with many kinds of nerve conditions, including:
Facial nerve palsy or Bell's palsy
Post-traumatic nerve damage
We also treat children that have conditions often associated with facial movement issues, such as:
Facial numbness: Numbness in the face and mouth can result from many of the same things that lead to paralysis in the face. For some patients in whom the numbness is problematic, causing recurrent wounds that are slow to heal, our surgeons may be able to restore some sensation by transferring nerves from other parts of the head and face.
Neurotrophic keratitis: When the corneal nerve does not function correctly, patients may develop severe corneal damage that they cannot heal. In select patients, the health of the cornea can be improved by transferring nerves from elsewhere in the head and neck. These surgeries are performed by members of the pediatric ophthalmology and plastic surgery teams working together.
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Children's Hospital Colorado providers
Children’s Hospital Colorado providers are faculty members of the University of Colorado School of Medicine. Our specialists are nationally ranked and globally recognized for delivering the best possible care in pediatrics.
Some healthcare professionals listed on our website have medical privileges to practice at Children’s Hospital Colorado, but they are community providers. They schedule and bill separately for their services, and are not employees of the Hospital.