Child's Nervous System

, Volume 32, Issue 9, pp 1735–1739 | Cite as

Facial spasms, but not hemifacial spasm: a case report and review of literature

  • Michael M. McDowell
  • Xiao Zhu
  • Marion A. Hughes
  • Raymond F. SekulaJr.
Case Report



Facial spasms represent a complicated array of neurological motor disorders with unique diagnostic and treatment algorithms. Due to the rarity of many of these disorders in the pediatric population, special care must be taken in identifying subtle differences in presentation of these disorders.


We present a case of a 3-year-old boy diagnosed with a brainstem ganglioglioma, Chiari 1 malformation, and a 2-year history of left-sided facial spasms. Stereotyped facial contractions and subtle eye deviation occurred every 10 s, with downward movement rather than upward elevation of the eyebrow.


MRI revealed absence of a clear compressive vessel of the centrally-myelinized portion of the facial nerve, and EMG of the left facial nerve demonstrated no abnormal motor response or evidence of “lateral spread.” Given these findings, a diagnosis of hemifacial seizures was made. Microvascular decompression was not recommended, and botulinum toxin injection was not pursued; however, the patient has remained refractory to antiepileptic drugs, possibly due to biochemical alteration by his ganglioglioma. He may eventually require surgical debulking should his symptoms progress.


Hemifacial spasm is a well-recognized disorder, but similar conditions can, at times, imitate its appearance. While our patient presented with facial spasms, his clinical history, examination, and radiographic and electrophysiological findings were more consistent with hemifacial seizures secondary to a brainstem lesion, rather than hemifacial spasms. It is important to distinguish the two entities, as misdiagnosis and inappropriate diagnostic or therapeutic measures may be taken inadvertently.


Hemifacial spasm Hemifacial seizures Pediatric Brow-lift sign 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Research involving human participants and/or animals

This report was generated using the ethical standards of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Informed consent

Intent to publish was indicated with full disclosure to the family and with consent from the family for publication of this report.

Supplementary material

381_2016_3057_MOESM1_ESM.mp4 (22.5 mb)
Video 1 Representative demonstration of the presenting facial contraction of the patient in clinic. Special note should be taken by the direction of the eyebrow, which is brought downward towards the center of the face rather than upward (MP4 23052 kb)
381_2016_3057_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (185 kb)
ESM 2 (PDF 185 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael M. McDowell
    • 1
  • Xiao Zhu
    • 1
  • Marion A. Hughes
    • 2
  • Raymond F. SekulaJr.
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of NeurosurgeryUniversity of Pittsburgh Medical CenterPittsburghUSA
  2. 2.Department of Radiology, Division of NeuroradiologyUniversity of Pittsburgh Medical CenterPittsburghUSA

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