Study evaluates use of corticosteroids and antiviral agents for treatment of Bell Palsy

September 1, 2009

Among patients with Bell Palsy, a facial paralysis with unknown cause, treatment with corticosteroids is associated with a reduced risk of an unsatisfactory recovery, and treatment with a combination of corticosteroids and antiviral agents may be associated with additional benefit, according to a systematic review and meta-analysis of previously published studies, reported in the September 2 issue of JAMA.

In background information provided by the authors, they note that Bell Palsy "is an acute weakness or paralysis of the facial nerve," and has an annual incidence of 20 to 30 per 100,000 population. "While 71 percent of untreated patients will completely recover and 84 percent will have complete or near normal recovery, the remainder will have persistent to moderate to severe weakness, facial contracture, or synkinesis [involuntary movement]." The authors explain that a herpes infection likely causes the disorder. DNA samples from patients have yielded type 1 (). Varicella zoster virus (VZV) reactivation is also associated with Bell Palsy.

John R. de Almeida, M.D., from Sunnybrook Hospital and the University of Toronto, Canada, and colleagues conducted a search of the medical literature for randomized controlled trials comparing treatment with either corticosteroids or antiviral agents with a control measuring unsatisfactory facial recovery (four months or more), unsatisfactory short-term recovery (six weeks to less than four months), synkinesis and autonomic dysfunction, or adverse effects. The authors identified 854 studies, of which 18 were eligible for inclusion for evaluation. The 18 studies included 2,786 patients and were conducted in 12 countries and five continents.

"… high-quality evidence suggests that corticosteroids alone reduce the risk of unsatisfactory recovery by 9 percent in absolute terms, with a NNTB (number of patients needed to treat for one patient to experience benefit) of 11," the authors report. "Corticosteroid therapy combined with antiviral agents reduced the risk of unsatisfactory recovery compared with antiviral agents alone. Corticosteroids were also associated with a 14 percent absolute risk reduction of synkinesis and autonomic dysfunction (NNTB, 7; moderate quality of evidence). Corticosteroids were not associated with an increased risk of adverse effects."

"Our results suggest a possible incremental benefit of in addition to corticosteroids, with an absolute risk reduction of 5 percent compared with corticosteroids alone. This effect, however, is not definitive and did not quite reach statistical significance," the authors write. "Further primary studies are needed to definitively establish - or refute - an incremental benefit of combined therapy compared with corticosteroid mono therapy," the authors conclude.

More information: JAMA. 2009; 302[9]:985-993.

Source: JAMA and Archives Journals

Explore further: Evidence lacking to guide treatment for sudden hearing loss

Related Stories

Evidence lacking to guide treatment for sudden hearing loss

June 18, 2007

Although steroids are the most widely used treatment for sudden hearing loss, little scientific evidence supports their use or that of any other therapies for this condition, according to a systematic review and meta-analysis ...

Recommended for you

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...

Quantum Theory May Explain Wishful Thinking

April 14, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Humans don’t always make the most rational decisions. As studies have shown, even when logic and reasoning point in one direction, sometimes we chose the opposite route, motivated by personal bias or simply ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.