The recommended treatment of penetrating traumatic facial nerve injuries associated with immediate, total paralysis of the ipsilateral facial muscles generally includes facial nerve exploration and repair. We reviewed our experience with bullet injuries to the extratemporal facial nerve to determine the efficacy of this approach. Five patients with immediate, total facial nerve paralysis caused by bullet wounds near the extratemporal facial nerve were seen between July 1990 and December 1992. Of four patients who underwent surgical exploration, only one demonstrated complete transection of the facial nerve. Two of these four were followed up with serial electroneuronography, which demonstrated complete degeneration within the first week after injury. The fifth patient was followed up with serial electroneuronography without complete degeneration, and partial recovery was observed. We conclude that penetrating bullet injuries with immediate, total facial paralysis may not necessarily be associated with transection of the facial nerve. We propose a method of treating patients with these injuries using electroneuronography.
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