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Discerning a Smile -- The Intricacies of Analysis of Post-Neck dissection Asymmetr
  • Rachael Thomas,
  • Joshua Whittaker,
  • Jonathan Pollock
Rachael Thomas
Churchill Hospital

Corresponding Author:ramcsurgeon@gmail.com

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Joshua Whittaker
Royal Derby Hospital
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Jonathan Pollock
Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust
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Introduction Iatrogenic facial nerve palsy is distressing to the patient and clinician. The deformity is aesthetically displeasing, and can be functionality problematic for oral competence, dental lip trauma and speech. Furthermore such injuries have litigation implications. Marginal mandibular nerve (MMN) palsy causes an obvious asymmetrical smile. MMN is at particular risk during procedures such as rhytidoplasties, mandibular fracture, tumour resection and neck dissections. Cited causes for the high incidence are large anatomical variations, unreliable landmarks, an exposed course and tumour grade or nodal involvement dictating requisite nerve sacrifice. An alternative cause for post-operative asymmetry is damage to the cervical branch of the facial nerve or platysmal dysfunction. This tends to have a transient course and recovers. Distinction between MMN palsy and palsy of the cervical branch of the facial nerve should therefore be made. In 1979 Ellenbogen differentiated between MMN palsy and “Pseudo-paralysis of the mandibular branch of the facial nerve”. Despite this, there is paucity in the literature & confusion amongst clinicians in distinguishing between these palsies, and there is little regarding these post-operative sequelae and neck dissections. Method This article reflects on the surgical anatomy of the MMN and cervical nerve in relation to danger zones during lymphadenectomy. The authors review the anatomy of the smile. Finally, we utilise case studies to evaluate the differences between MMN palsy and its pseudo-palsy to allow clinical differentiation. Conclusion Here we present a simple method for clinical differentiation between these two prognostically different injuries, allowing appropriate reassurance, therapy & management.