A magnetic stimulator was used for direct transcutaneous stimulation of the intracranial portion of the facial nerve in 15 normal subjects and in patients with Bell's palsy, demyelinating neuropathy, traumatic facial palsy and pontine glioma. Compound muscle action potentials (CMAPs) thus elicited in the orbicularis oris muscle of controls were of similar amplitude but longer latency (1.3 SD 0.15 ms) compared with CMAPs produced by conventional electrical stimulation at the stylomastoid foramen. No response to magnetic stimulation could be recorded from the affected side in 15 of 16 patients with Bell's palsy. Serial studies in two patients demonstrated that the facial nerve remained inexcitable by magnetic stimulation despite marked improvement in clinical function. In the patient with a pontine glioma, the CMAP elicited by transcranial magnetic stimulation was of low amplitude but normal latency. In six of seven patients with demyelinating neuropathy, the response to intracranial magnetic stimulation was significantly delayed. Magnetic stimulation produced no response in either patient with traumatic facial palsy. Although the precise site of facial nerve stimulation is uncertain, evidence points to the labyrinthine segment of the facial canal as the most likely location.
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