OBJECTIVE: This study reviewed patients with Unilateral facial paralysis and normal clinical and imaging findings who underwent diagnostic facial nerve exploration. STUDY DESIGN AND SETTING: Fifteen patients with facial paralysis and normal findings were seen in the Mayo Clinic Department of Otorhinolaryngology. RESULTS: Eleven patients were misdiagnosed as having Bell palsy or idiopathic paralysis. Progressive facial paralysis with sequential involvement of adjacent facial nerve branches occurred in all 15 patients. Seven patients had a history of regional skin squamous cell carcinoma, 13 patients had surgical exploration to rule out a neoplastic process, and 2 patients had negative exploration. At last follow-up, 5 patients were alive. CONCLUSIONS: Patients with facial paralysis and normal clinical and imaging findings should be considered for facial nerve exploration when the patient has a history of pain or regional skin cancer, involvement of other cranial nerves, and prolonged facial paralysis. SIGNIFICANCE: Occult malignancy of the facial nerve may cause unilateral facial paralysis in patients with normal clinical and imaging findings.
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