No specific interventions have been reported for the treatment of severe neurodeprivative dry eye disease owing to facial nerve palsy. We describe herein the feasibility of a novel surgical procedure to reinnervate the lacrimal gland and report the preliminary outcomes of the first series of patients who were treated accordingly.
Prospective interventional case series including consecutive patients affected by facial palsy with absolute deficiency of tear secretion who underwent lacrimal gland neurotization. A sural nerve vertical cross-face graft was used to connect the lacrimal gland with the parasympathetic branch of the lingual nerve directed to the contralateral submandibular gland.
Lacrimal neurotization was performed uneventfully in 10 patients (4 M, 6 F; mean age 47.1 ± 17.1 years). In all cases, the procedure was combined with facial reanimation, while corneal neurotization was performed in 4 cases. One year postoperatively, mean values of a Schirmer test increased significantly compared with baseline values (7.56 ± 7.84 vs. 0 ± 0 mm/5 min; P = 0.02), while the mean daily number of instillation of tear substitutes decreased significantly (21.8 ± 4.5 vs. 7.1 ± 2.2; P = 0.009). Overall, all patients were satisfied with surgery (very satisfied: n = 7 and satisfied: n = 2). No major postoperative complications occurred.
Vertical cross-face using a sural nerve graft to connect the lacrimal gland with the contralateral submandibular gland is a novel technique for treating patients with facial nerve palsy and severe neurodeprivative dry eye disease. This surgery both performed alone and combined with corneal neurotization is able to improve tear secretion and decrease the need for frequent instillations of tear substitutes.

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