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Hyaluronic Acid Injections Can Help Ease Some Facial Paralysis


According to research published in JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery, one person’s youthful rejuvenation solution may help with another’s facial paralysis.

In a joint collaboration by Johns Hopkins and Stanford University, authors tested a noninvasive cosmetic surgery procedure used to make lips appear fuller on 25 volunteers who suffered from different types of facial paralysis, including that caused by muscular dystrophy. The research found that across the board, some level of lip function was restored, which allowed patients to better articulate “b” and “p” sounds. Additionally, subjects were able to better grasp onto a straw or drink from a cup.

The study spanned a period from 2008 to 2014, where researchers enlisted 22 patients suffering from unilateral facial paralysis, and three with muscular dystrophy (MD), a hereditary progressive condition that causes muscle weakness and often paralysis. The three subjects with MD were experiencing lip weakness on both sides of their face.

Researchers evaluated the subjects’ lip strength using a tool that measures the pressure placed onto it by the lips. The weakest areas were then injected with hyaluronic acid, which has been routinely used for what the authors call “aesthetic soft-tissue augmentation”, but hadn’t previously been widely considered for this type of therapy. Before and after the injections, a speech therapist also evaluated the subject.

The subsequent results are considered encouraging. The lips were stronger on a uniform basis — even in parts that were not paralyzed. The difference was especially pronounced in those with muscular dystrophy. According to researchers, in three patients with facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy, lip strength was improved by six to seven times after the injections.

The speech therapist involved in the study noted that these improvements were reflected by improvements including the increased articulation of certain sounds. The therapist also noted a decrease in anterior bolus spillage, which can be the cause of drooling when eating or drinking.

While the results were not permanent and didn’t restore full function, the improvement in the quality of life cannot be ignored. The authors of the study stated that they hoped that further studies will better quantify these results and explore other types of fillers such a fat transfer. However, in the present time, the current hyaluronic acid injection treatment can go a long way for treating temporary paralysis in some patients.


Starmer H, Lyford-Pike S, Ishii L, et al. Quantifying Labial Strength and Function in Facial Paralysis Effect of Targeted Lip Injection Augmentation. JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery. 2015.