OBJECTIVE: Earlier investigations have suggested that isolated conduction block of the facial nerve to transcranial magnetic stimulation early in the disorder represents a very sensitive and potentially specific finding in Bell's palsy differentiating the disease from other etiologies.
METHODS: Stimulation of the facial nerve was performed electrically at the stylomastoid foramen and magnetically at the labyrinthine segment of the Fallopian channel within 3 days from symptom onset in 65 patients with Bell's palsy, five patients with Zoster oticus, one patient with neuroborreliosis and one patient with nuclear facial nerve palsy due to multiple sclerosis.
RESULTS: Absence or decreased amplitudes of muscle responses to early transcranial magnetic stimulation was not specific for Bell's palsy, but also evident in all cases of Zoster oticus and in the case of neuroborreliosis. Amplitudes of electrically evoked muscle responses were more markedly reduced in Zoster oticus as compared to Bell's palsy, most likely due to a more severe degree of axonal degeneration. The degree of amplitude reduction of the muscle response to electrical stimulation reliably correlated with the severity of facial palsy.
CONCLUSIONS: Transcranial magnetic stimulation in the early diagnosis of Bell's palsy is less specific than previously thought. While not specific with respect to the etiology of facial palsy, transcranial magnetic stimulation seems capable of localizing the site of lesion within the Fallopian channel.
SIGNIFICANCE: Combined with transcranial magnetic stimulation, early electrical stimulation of the facial nerve at the stylomastoid foramen may help to establish correct diagnosis and prognosis.
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