Clinical Review

Girl, 6, With Facial Weakness

Author and Disclosure Information



An accurate assessment of blood pressure is essential, as severe hypertension may be implicated in FNP in children.3,5,7 One literature review reported that hypertension was the origin of FNP in 3% to 17% of affected children.20 Vascular hemorrhage induced by hypertension is thought to cause nerve compression and subsequent FNP.7

A bilateral eye exam is also important. Irritation is likely, and the patient with any suspected corneal abrasion or damage should be referred to an ophthalmologist.6,18

Laboratory Testing and Imaging
Diagnostic testing that facilitates the exclusion of known causes of FNP should be considered, as there is no specific laboratory test to confirm the diagnosis. A complete blood count, Lyme titers, cerebrospinal fluid analysis, CT, and/or MRI may be warranted, based on the clinical presentation.7-9 In children in whom Lyme disease is suspected (ie, those living in tick-endemic areas or with recent tick bites), serologic testing should be performed. Lumbar puncture and an evaluation of cerebrospinal fluid may be necessary in cases in which meningitis cannot be excluded.7,9

Specialized diagnostic tests are not routinely recommended for patients with paresis that is improving. Audiometry and evaluation of the stapedial reflex may help guide treatment decisions for patients whose condition is not improving. In children, the presence or return of the stapedial reflex within three weeks of disease onset is predictive of complete recovery.5 In patients who experience complete paralysis or unimproved paresis, results of electrodiagnostic testing (in particular, evoked facial nerve electroneuronography) can help forecast recovery of facial nerve function.5,17

Treatment and Management
Treatment for FNP in adults is controversial, and even more so for the pediatric patient. Treatment decisions consist of eye care, corticosteroids, antiviral medications, and appropriate referrals.

Eye care. Eye lubrication and protection should be implemented immediately. Protecting the cornea is paramount; thorough lubrication of the eye is the mainstay of treatment.18 Artificial tears should be used frequently during the day, and an ointment should be applied to the eye at night. Use of eye patches is controversial, as they may actually cause corneal injury.7,9 Taping the eye shut at night may prevent trauma during sleep, but this option must be considered carefully.9,18

Corticosteroids. Early initiation of corticosteroids should be considered for all patients with FNP, including children.2,7,9,17 Studies are inconclusive as to whether steroid therapy is beneficial in children with idiopathic FNP. However, two 2010 reviews of pediatric FNP recommend early initiation of steroids for children with acute-onset FNP, particularly when facial paresis is evaluated at a House-Brackmann grade V or VI.7,9 The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) recommends a tapering course of prednisone for all patients, begun as soon as possible.6 The prednisone dosage for pediatric patients is usually 1.0 mg/kg/d, split into two doses, for six days, followed by a tapering dose for four days.5

Antivirals and antibiotic therapy. When an infectious cause of FNP is known, appropriate antibiotic or antiviral therapy should begin. If the patient lives in or has traveled to an area endemic for Lyme disease, empiric treatment may be appropriate. When Ramsay Hunt syndrome is diagnosed or herpetic lesions are visible, antiviral treatment should be initiated.7

Antiviral therapy for idiopathic FNP is the most controversial of the treatment decisions. In 2001, the American Academy of Neurology concluded that no clear benefit from acyclovir could be ascertained, although it might be effective.13 This was affirmed in a recently updated Cochrane review of antiviral therapy for idiopathic FNP.12 Antiviral therapy alone showed no benefit, compared with placebo; however, combined antiviral and corticosteroid therapy was more effective than placebo alone in recovery outcomes. Antivirals may benefit pediatric patients and should be considered early when the cause of FNP is viral or idiopathic.7,9

Referrals. Initial presentation and course of paresis should guide referral patterns for the pediatric patient presenting with FNP. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends referral to an otolaryngologist for any infant or child with FNP.21 The AAFP recommends referral to a specialist for any patient who does not show improvement within two weeks.6

In patients with complete paralysis, early surgical intervention may be considered, and referral should be made promptly for electrodiagnostic testing and surgical consult. In cases in which otitis media causes FNP, myringotomy and tube insertion are indicated, and appropriate referral should be made.7,9

|The prognosis in children with FNP is good, and most will recover completely.2,9-11,22 Idiopathic and infectious etiologies of FNP seem to have the greatest likelihood for complete recovery.10,11,16,17 Recovery appears to be affected by etiology, degree of paresis, and treatment. How these factors coalesce is not fully understood, and up to 20% of children may have mild to moderate residual facial nerve dysfunction.10,11,19,22


Next Article: