Trends in Electric Stimulation for Facial Paralysis: Electronic Survey of Physical Therapists in Oregon

Author(s): Allison Munn, Michelle Cameron, Myriam Loyo

The purpose of this study was to examine current views of physical therapists (PTs) and physical therapist assistants (PTAs) in Oregon towards electric stimulation (ES) therapy for facial paralysis through an electronic survey, and to compare these results to current medical evidence from identified human clinical trials. One hundred ninety-three therapists responded to the survey. Fifty-two of the respondents (27%) treat facial paralysis, of whom 21 (60%) use ES as a mode of treatment. Common reasons for using ES were personal success with it (20/21, 90%), current scientific evidence (6/21, 30%), and referring physician and patients’ request (6/21, 29%). Reasons for avoiding ES therapy included research showing it to be ineffective (6/12, 50%), risks outweighing potential benefits (4/12, 33%), and lack of equipment or training (5/12, 40%). Review of current literature identified six human trials examining the use of ES for facial paralysis with mixed results. In conclusion, rehabilitation service providers in Oregon have a divided opinion on the effectiveness and safety of ES in the treatment of facial paralysis. Additional clinical trials and practice guidelines would improve care for patients with facial paralysis.

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