Facial paralysis can drastically diminish satisfaction in one’s social interactions and overall quality of life. Bell palsy is the most common cause of facial palsy, however, a diagnosis of “atypical” BP may originate from an entirely different pathological process. This case highlights a rare case of facial nerve paraganglioma, initially misdiagnosed as BP, that resulted in facial paralysis from neoplastic invasion of the facial nerve.
A 66-year old Hispanic woman with systemic lupus erythematosus presented to the plastic surgery clinic with complaints of drooling and being unable to smile. She experienced several episodes of left facial paralysis and was diagnosed with BP at an outside institution. Each episode was only partially responsive to steroid therapy. Imaging at our institution demonstrated lobulated enhancement along the vertical and extratemporal segments of the facial nerve, which prompted surgical intervention. The patient underwent left transmastoid approach for removal of the lesion involving the facial nerve followed by facial nerve reanimation via gracilis free flap without complication.
This report outlines an extraordinarily rare case of a patient with facial nerve paraganglioma. This case represents the importance of reconstructive surgeons in considering a thorough diagnostic work-up with imaging and histopathology in the setting of idiopathic facial paralysis. Successful collaboration between otolaryngology and plastic surgery made streamlined diagnosis and surgical treatment of this unique case possible.

Copyright © 2021 by Mutaz B. Habal, MD.