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Branch facial nerve trauma after superficial temporal artery biopsy: a case report

Richard A Rison

Author Affiliations

University of Southern California, Keck School of Medicine, Los Angeles County Medical Center, Los Angeles, California USA; Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital, 12401 Washington Blvd., Whittier, California 90602, USA

Journal of Medical Case Reports 2011, 5:34  doi:10.1186/1752-1947-5-34

Published: 26 January 2011



Giant cell arteritis is an emergency requiring prompt diagnosis and treatment. Superficial temporal artery biopsy is the gold diagnostic standard. Complications are few and infrequent; however, facial nerve injury has been reported, leaving an untoward cosmetic outcome. This case report is to the best of our knowledge only the fourth one presented in the available literature so far regarding facial nerve injury from superficial temporal artery biopsy.

Case presentation

A 73-year-old Caucasian woman presented for neurological evaluation regarding eyebrow and facial asymmetry after a superficial temporal artery biopsy for presumptive giant cell arteritis-induced cephalalgia.


Damage to branches of the facial nerve may occur after superficial temporal artery biopsy, resulting in eyebrow droop. Although an uncommon and sparsely reported complication, all clinicians of various specialties involved in the care of these patients should be aware of this given the gravity of giant cell arteritis and the widespread use of temporal artery biopsy.