Facial nerve palsy is characterized by the loss of function of one side of facial muscles. The underlying cause can be a viral infection or autoimmune.
In idiopathy facial nerve palsy, a short course of steroid is mainstream management. Antiviral medications are also used. However, the evidence for both methods is controversial. Fortunately, many cases make a complete recovery within 6-12 weeks. However, there are some patients who suffer chronic facial muscle paralysis.
Acupuncture has been used in various nervous system conditions, including facial nerve palsy. The effect is very promising.
The objectives are different at different stages. We aim complete or near-complete recovery at the early stage (2 weeks to 3 months). Near-complete recovery is still achievable at the stage between 3 and 6 months. At the chronic stage i.e. over 6 months, any recovery is challenging, but our specific acupuncture technique can still help.
The initial plan is 6 weekly sessions. Patients who have less than 6 months of the condition should see significant improvement or even complete recovery. In patients who are in the chronic phase, the improvement may happen as late as the 4th treatment.
Tolerability and risk
Acupuncture is a well-tolerated safe treatment. Patients experience pain less than intramuscular injection and blood tests. However, patients may experience acupuncture-specific sensation, De Qi, which might feel like vague tingling and lasts seconds.
N.B. In some patients, a technique with strong stimulation may be used. Local anaesthesia can be offered, but the injection of the anaesthetic agent may cause more discomfort compared to needling.
1st - 4th treatment - $250
5th & 6th treatment - $200
Medicare rebate - $105.55 x 6 = 633.30
Total out-of-pocket cost $766.70
* Patients may be eligible to get a higher rebate if the Extended Medicare Safety Net (EMSN) threshold is met. The total out-of-pocket cost may be as low as $154. Please contact Medicare regarding EMSN.
Persistent facial nerve palsy is a challenging condition, and it significantly impacts the quality of life. The acupuncture treatment is widely used in the early stage of the condition, but the experience in persistent paralysis is lacking. We would like to recruit 5 patients who had the condition over 6 months with multiple muscle group involvement to participate in our stage 1 trail(non-randomized). The treatments are bulk billed, without any out-of-pocket cost.