Recurrent and Progressive Facial Baroparesis on Flying Relieved by Eustachian Tube Dilation.
OBJECTIVES: Facial baroparesis is a rare phenomenon of seventh cranial nerve palsy traditionally reported in divers, with only 11 cases reported in aviation so far. It is important to correctly diagnose facial baroparesis given the differential diagnosis of stroke and decompression disease and offer appropriate treatment for recurrent cases. METHODS: The authors present the case of a patient with recurrent and progressive facial baroparesis treated with Eustachian tube balloon dilation. Institutional medical records were reviewed, and analysis of the current literature was performed. RESULTS: A 37-year-old woman experienced recurrent and progressive left facial paralysis on descent from altitude on commercial airline flights, with resolution between flights. The patient flew frequently for work-related trips and for the past 7 years had noted facial paralysis that began with mild asymmetry of the face and progressed to an inability to close her left eye. She denied any otologic symptoms other than ear fullness and pressure causing left otalgia. The right side was not involved. After treatment with Eustachian tube dilation, the patient has been on numerous flights with complete resolution of symptoms. CONCLUSIONS: This study presents a rare case of facial baroparesis on commercial flight descent that resolved after left Eustachian tube dilation. Although unilateral facial palsy can be concerning for stroke, a history of ear fullness and pressure may suggest facial baroparesis instead. For recurrent and progressive cases, Eustachian tube dilation should be considered for treatment.
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