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Last Updated: Dec 7, 2017 URL: http://theta.utoronto.ca/HomePage Print Guide

Dr. Heather Baltzer offers a smile reinnervation surgery to adults Print Page
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Dr. Heather Baltzer offers a smile reinnervation surgery to adults

Not Just a Reason, But the Ability, to Smile Again

Whether unconsciously or reflexively, it happens without much thought: the corners of your mouth turn up and you smile, communicating happiness in one of its purest forms.
What seems like a simple movement of the mouth relies on facial muscles working together with networks of nerves that are responding to information from the brain. If that system goes offline, your smile can be lost along with the ability to control your face.[…]


But through a technique pioneered in Toronto, smile reinnervation or smile surgery, is giving adults suffering from facial paralysis new hope on regaining the function of their face.[…]


Dr. Heather Baltzer, a hand surgeon with the Hand and Upper Extremity Transplant Program at TW, is one of a few surgeons in Canada who had been mentored to do the procedure on adults by Dr. Ronald Zuker, a pioneer of the smile surgery procedure that is now used around the world. […]


In May 2016, Anastasia was the first patient at TW to undergo smile surgery. A nerve was grafted from her calf muscle and implanted across her face: attached in the smile muscle of the healthy part of her face, threaded across her upper lip and joined to the smile muscle of the paralyzed side of her face with the expectation that it would reinnervate as it grew with each millimetre.[…]


Dr. Baltzer has since performed the surgery on a few more patients who are extremely happy with the results, and has consultations with a few more. She and Dr. Zuker work as a team to care for adult facial paralysis patients. It's been a nice addition to her practice where the bulk of her cases focus on hands and wrists. "It might seem that smiles and hands don't have much in common but it's all part of the same tool box of moving nerves around to give back function to critical areas," she says. "It's really gratifying to use my skills to help people this way.[…]


Read a full story at UHN Newsroom.


Posted on December 1, 2017

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