In patients with hemifacial spasm (HFS), the spasm is due to cross compression of the facial nerve by a blood vessel. There are currently two hypotheses how the cross compression can cause HFS: 1. the spasm is caused by ephaptic transmission and hyperexcitability at the site of compression; and 2. the spasm is caused by hyperexcitability in the facial motonucleus. In peripheral nerves, F-waves, which result from the backfiring of antidromically activated anterior horn cells, have been proposed as indices of anterior horn cell excitability. Enhancement of the F-waves in facial muscles also indicates increased excitability of the facial motonucleus. On the other hand, abnormal muscle response (AMR), which can be elicited by stimulating one branch of the facial nerve and recording electromyographically from muscles innervated by other branches of the facial nerve, is specific for patients with HFS. We have therefore measured the AMRs and the F-waves in the facial muscle of HFS patients under anesthesia in order to investigate the excitability of the facial motonucleus. We obtained facial nerve evoked electromyograms from 14 HFS patients during microvascular decompression (MVD) operation. The F-waves, obtained with surface electrodes from the mentalis muscle, were defined as the second response after the M- wave. The F-waves in facial muscles cannot usually be elicited during surgical anesthesia using inhalation anesthetics. However, the F-waves were elicited on the spasm side in 10 out of 14 patients with HFS and the F-waves disappeared after MVD under anesthesia, as the early responses (R1) of the blink reflex were elicited on the spasm side before MVD under anesthesia. The F-waves elicited during anesthesia were suppressed significantly, compared with those before MVD. These results suggest that excitability in facial motonucleus increased on the spasm side.
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