Hemifacial spasm (HFS) is a movement disorder caused by mechanical compression of the facial nerve after it has left the brainstem and is characterized by brief or sustained twitching of the muscles innervated by that nerve. Often we observe spasm in an awakening situation. Actually contractions persist during sleep. To our knowledge, there were no reports on how HFS manifests under disturbance of consciousness. Here, we report a case of primary HFS in which the patient's symptoms persisted in a coma.
A 74-year-old female with right-sided primary HFS for 20 years and had received botulinum toxin injections in our hospital. Unfortunately she was carried to emergency department after traumatic right pneumothorax by accident. During the emergency treatment, she lost consciousness due to simultaneous cardiac arrest and respiratory arrest. She was then admitted to the emergency intensive care unit for further treatment. During her hospitalization, she was in a coma with stable vital signs and persisting symptoms of HFS. Thus, a multidisciplinary consultation was requested to identify whether it was focal cortical seizures involving the right-side facial muscles. Physical examination revealed brief involuntary clonic or tonic contractions accompanied with the ‘Babinski-2 sign’. A combination of relevant data, including her past history, clinical presentation and a negative computed tomography scan of the head, led to a diagnosis of right-sided HFS. As the symptoms of HFS are not life-threatening, the use of anticonvulsants is unnecessary.
For the layperson, it is crucial to seek a multidisciplinary consultation to obtain a correct diagnosis.