MRI Scans

Your  GP might request further investigations, for example, an MRI scan (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) of your facial nerve.  This is a type of scan that uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves to obtain detailed images of the inside of your body.  The benefit is that it shows up soft tissue very easily.

Why do I need a scan?

An MRI will show, in detail, the health of your nerve, the amount of swelling surrounding the nerve or any other complications. It will identify cases of more severe nerve injury.  It is possible for swelling around the nerve to persist for many months following the onset of symptoms.  This may continue to cause some compression on the nerve and delay recovery.

Exclude potential tumours 

An MRI will also exclude any other potential causes of your facial palsy.  It will show up any tumours, even small ones.  Tumours that may cause a facial palsy can be found on the hearing nerve known as the vestibular nerve or acoustic nerve,  and tumours on the facial nerve.

Facial nerve tumours are rare, grow very slowly  and often go undiagnosed because they do not cause any symptoms.  Facial nerve tumours are generally tiny and grow over years and decades and are usually of little consequence.  A facial nerve tumour is often only detected on MRI scan when there is additional swelling around the tumour, usually as a result of infection, causing a facial palsy.

What happens next? 

An MRI of the facial nerve may not show any abnormality despite your persistent symptoms.  However, it is important to exclude any other causes of your symptoms so that you can receive the appropriate treatment and care.

When the MRI scan results are negative and no abnormalities are found, it is a case of waiting for the nerve to recover in its own time whilst you make sure you do all you can to ensure good muscle health so that when the nerve does recover the muscles can respond appropriately.

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