Facial nerve injury: A complication of superficial temporal artery biopsy

Michael K. Yoon, Jonathan C. Horton, Timothy J. McCulley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: To describe 4 patients who sustained facial nerve injury during temporal artery biopsy. Design: Retrospective, observational case series. Methods: The medical records were reviewed of 4 patients (2 men, 2 women; mean age 72.8 years, range 60 to 87), referred for evaluation of palsy of the frontal branch of the facial nerve following temporal artery biopsy. Main outcomes measured were site of incision, length of follow-up, and degree of recovery. Results: In all cases, incisions were made in the preauricular region or on the pretrichial temple within 3 cm of the lateral canthal angle. Follow-up ranged from 1 month to over 5 years. No patient recovered completely; 2 had partial return of function, and 2 reported no improvement. Conclusions: Branch facial nerve palsy can occur with temporal artery biopsy and is likely to result in permanent disability. In all cases the incision was placed within the known course of the frontal branch of the facial nerve. To prevent this rare complication, we advocate biopsy of the parietal, rather than the frontal, branch of the superficial temporal artery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)251-255.e1
JournalAmerican journal of ophthalmology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology


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