IMPORTANCE: The interaction between patient- and observer-perceived quality of life (QOL) and facial paralysis-related disability and the resulting effect of these interactions on social perception are incompletely understood. OBJECTIVE: To measure the associations between observer-perceived disability and QOL and patient-perceived disability and QOL in patients with facial paralysis. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: This prospective study in an academic tertiary referral center included 84 naive observers who viewed static and dynamic images of faces with unilateral, House-Brackmann grades IV to VI facial paralysis (n = 16) and demographically matched images of nonparalyzed control individuals (n = 4). Data were collected from June 1 to August 1, 2014, and analyzed from August 2 to December 1, 2014. MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: Observers rated the patient and control images in 6 clinically relevant domains. The patients self-reported their disability and QOL using validated tools, such as the Facial Clinimetric Evaluation Scale. Quality of life, severity of paralysis, and disability were measured on a 100-point visual analog scale. RESULTS: The 84 observers (59 women [70%] and 25 men [30%]) ranged in age from 20 to 68 years (mean [SD] age, 35.2 [11.9]). Structural equation modeling showed that for each 1-point decrease in a patient's Facial Clinimetric Evaluation Scale score, the patient's visual analog scale QOL improved by 0.36 (SE, 0.03; 95% CI, 0.31-0.42) points. Similarly, from an observer perspective, as the perceived disability (-0.29 [SE, 0.04; 95% CI, -0.36 to -0.22]) and severity (-0.21 [SE, 0.03; 95% CI, -0.28 to -0.14]) decreased, the perceived QOL improved. Furthermore, attractive faces were viewed as having better QOL (disability, severity, and attractiveness regression coefficients, -0.29 [SE, 0.04; 95% CI, -0.36 to -0.22], -0.21 [SE, 0.03; 95% CI, -0.28 to -0.14], and 0.32 [SE, 0.03; 95% CI, 0.26 to 0.39], respectively). An inverse association was found between a paralyzed patient's self-reported QOL rating and the observers' perceived QOL. This association was complex and was mediated through perceived severity and disability. Observers judged the severity of paralyzed faces to be 3.61 (SE, 1.80; 95% CI, 0.09-7.14) points more severe when viewing dynamic rather than static images. CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: Observers were more likely to rate QOL lower owing to disability than were the patients with paralysis. This finding may be explained by previous literature reporting that disabled people adjust their values to accommodate their disability, thereby limiting the negative effect on their QOL. Given the importance of QOL on social interaction, the dissonance between observers and patients in this area has important implications for the socialization of patients with facial paralysis. LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: NA.
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