Facial palsy during the COVID-19 pandemic

Luca Codeluppi, Francesco Venturelli, Jessica Rossi, Antonio Fasano, Giulia Toschi, Francesca Pacillo, Francesco Cavallieri, Paolo Giorgi Rossi, Franco Valzania

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To compare the incidence and clinical features of individuals presenting in emergency rooms (ER) with facial palsy during the Italian COVID-19 outbreak and in the same period of 2019. Methods: We retrospectively reviewed the medical records for all accesses to the six ER in the province of Reggio Emilia, Italy, during the first phase of the COVID-19 pandemic (27 February-3 May 2020) to identify all cases of diagnosed facial palsy. Clinical information was retrieved for each patient and compared with that of facial palsy cases presenting in 2019. Result: Between 27 February and 3 May 2020, 38 patients presented to provincial ERs for facial palsy; in 2019, there were 22 cases, for an incidence rate ratio of 1.73 (95% CI 1.02–2.92) for the 2020 cohort. Of the 2020 cohort, eight patients (21%) presented with active or recent symptoms consistent with COVID-19 infection, compared with 2 (9%) in 2019 (p =.299); one was tested and resulted positive for SARS-CoV-2. Moreover, patients were younger (−11 years, p =.037) than those of the previous year and manifested a longer lag (+1.1 days, p =.001) between symptoms onset and ER presentation. Conclusion: We observed a higher occurrence of facial palsy during the COVID-19 outbreak compared to the same period of the previous year; 21% of patients presenting with facial palsy had active or recent symptoms consistent with SARS-CoV-2 infection, suggesting an excess risk of facial palsy during or after COVID-19. These patients searched for medical attention later, probably because of the fear of contracting COVID-19 during assistance.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere01939
JournalBrain and Behavior
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Nov 7 2020


  • Bell's palsy
  • COVID-19
  • facial palsy
  • nerve
  • SARS-CoV-2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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