Two patients aged 21 and 50 years presented with facial hemiatrophy and unilateral spasms of the masticatory muscles. Masticatory muscle biopsy showed normal findings in both patients and facial skin biopsy specimens only showed atrophy, although morphoea (localised facial scleroderma) had been diagnosed nine years previously in the second patient. The involuntary movements consisted of brief twitches and prolonged contractions clinically and electromyographically similar to those of hemifacial spasm and cramps. The jaw jerk and the silent periods were absent in the affected muscles. Direct stimulation of the muscle nerve and transcranial stimulation of the trigeminal root demonstrated slowing of conduction and after-activity due to autoexcitation. Observations in other reported cases and these two patients suggest that hemimasticatory spasm is produced by ectopic activity secondary to focal demyelination of the trigeminal motor nerve fibres. The proposed cause of the neuropathy is focal damage to the masticatory nerves caused by compression, possibly resulting from the deep tissue changes that occur in facial hemiatrophy.
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