Keyhole Brain Surgery Cures Sufferer’s Facial Spasms

4th January 2010

Patient says operation at Spire Bristol Hospital has changed his life

When Chris Williams decided to seek medical help over the facial spasms which were having an increasingly negative effect on his life, he was told he was simply tired or anxious.

In fact Chris, from Colne in Lancashire, had been suffering from a condition called hemi facial spasm for over two years, and deciding that botox was not an option, he took the daunting decision to opt for brain surgery.

Now, following an operation at Spire Bristol Hospital carried out by leading neurosurgeon Prof Hugh Coakham, Chris says his life has been transformed.

“I have always been a fairly confident person who likes to look people in the eye, and my condition was preventing me from doing that,” says Chris. “A big part of my quality of life was being taken away and I couldn’t be me.

“There were certain trigger points which would set off the spasms, such as smiling, singing, being anxious when I met new people or being hungry.

After seeing four GPs in his local area, Chris decided to turn to the internet for help, where he found Prof. Coakham.

A scan at Prof. Coakham’s clinic revealed that Chris’ problem was being caused by a blood vessel pressing against one of the cranial nerves which controlled his facial movements.

Prof Coakham said: “The condition Chris was suffering from causes ‘short circuits’ or ‘sparks’ because the ‘insulation’ around the nerve has been broken down. We in Bristol were the first to identify the cause of this problem back in the late 1980s – it is quite rare, affecting around five in 100,000 people.
 
“I have carried out many of these keyhole procedures and the success rate is high, but they remain very delicate. Making an opening the size of a £1 coin behind Chris’s ear, we then looked down a surgical microscope and moved the responsible blood vessel away from the compressed nerve.

“We then used a new type of electronic measurement which tells us if the procedure has worked in the right way in terms of separating the nerve and the blood vessel.”

“As an alternative solution to my problem I could have had botox but that was never an option for me,” says Chris.

“How I was before the operation compared to how I am now is like comparing night and day, and I don’t consider myself to have the condition anymore.

“Two days post-operation my girlfriend asked if I had seen my face in a mirror. I hadn’t by then, so the reality of seeing myself without a twitching face was a very emotional moment and is one that will live with me forever.

“The whole right side of my face has opened up and people say I look more content because I am not constantly having to screw my face up.

“Of course it was daunting going into hospital to have a brain operation but I would say the problem is 95 per cent cured – I am so much more relaxed now and this operation really has changed my life.”

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