Hemifacial Spasm Specialist

David Newell, MD

Cerebrovascular, Spinal, and Brain Tumor Neurosurgery located in Bellevue, WA

The facial twitching caused by hemifacial spasm is seldom painful, but the spasms often contort your appearance and interfere with facial expressions. David Newell, MD is an expert in surgical treatment of hemifacial spasm, providing men and women throughout the greater Seattle area of Washington with long-lasting results. If you’re embarrassed by facial muscle spasms or medical treatment has failed to help, call or book an appointment online.

Hemifacial Spasm

David Newell, MD

What is hemifacial spasm?

Hemifacial spasm is a condition that causes the muscles on one side of your face to involuntarily twitch.

In most cases, hemifacial spasm develops when the facial nerve, or the seventh cranial nerve, is compressed by a blood vessel. It may also be caused by an injury or tumor. As a blood vessel or tumor presses against the nerve, it misfires and causes uncontrollable muscle spasms.  

What types of twitches occur with hemifacial spasm?

The facial nerve originates at your brain stem and leaves the skull below your ears, where it separates into five branches that control the muscles that move your eyebrows, close your eyes, and move your mouth and lips.

When you develop symptoms of hemifacial spasm, you may experience:

  • Intermittent eyelid twitching
  • Spasms that make your eye close
  • Spasms that pull your mouth to one side
  • Muscle spasms in your lower face
  • Continuous spasms of all the muscles on one side of your face

In 92% of cases, the muscle spasms start near the eye and progress down your face. In the remaining 8% of cases, spasms start near your chin and gradually progress upward.

How is hemifacial spasm diagnosed and treated?

After reviewing your symptoms and medical history, Dr. Newell performs a physical exam and diagnostic tests. You may need electromyography to evaluate muscle activity, angiography to see blood vessels or diagnostic imaging such as an MRI or CT scan.

Anticonvulsant medications or muscle relaxers may be enough to treat mild cases of hemifacial spasm. Your doctor may also consider Botox® injections, which block nerve signals causing the muscles to relax.

When nonsurgical treatments fail to provide symptom relief, Dr. Newell treats hemifacial spasm with a surgical procedure called microvascular decompression.

During microvascular decompression, Dr. Newell makes a small hole in the back of the skull, which exposes the facial nerve. He then places a small piece of sponge-like material between the nerve and the blood vessel. The sponge protects the nerve and relieves pressure from the blood vessel. As a result, nerve activity normalizes and your spasms stop.

If you’re experiencing ongoing facial muscle twitching, call David Newell, MD or book an appointment online.