Major Award For Scottish Research on Bell's Palsy

8th April 2009

Scottish scientists who found that early treatment with steroids significantly improves the chances of a complete recovery from the disfiguring condition Bell’s Palsy have been named winners of the Research Paper of the Year Award at the inaugural BMJ Group Awards.

The research paper, originally published in the New England Journal of Medicine, followed a study led led by researchers at the University of Dundee. Working with colleagues around Scotland they examined almost 500 sufferers of Bell’s Palsy, a condition caused by problems with the facial nerve which can result in facial disfigurement and paralysis of one side of the face, and found that early treatment with the steroid prednisolone offered a substantial increase in complete recovery rates.

Last night their work was recognised at the BMJ Group Awards at the London Marriott Hotel in Grosvenor Square.

Professor Frank Sullivan, Director of the Scottish School of Primary Care at the University of Dundee, led the study and picked up the award on behalf of the research team last night.

“This is a fantastic award for all of those who worked on this project and contributed to the research findings,” said Professor Sullivan.

“This was research that has had a direct impact on the many people who suffer from Bell’s Palsy. It would not have been possible without the support of GPs and consultants and the commitment of the patients who joined the study.

“Furthermore, this study shows that important research like this can be carried out in the primary care sector and deliver real results.”

The study was carried out with support from other Scottish universities at Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow and from the Chief Scientist Office of NHS Scotland and GP services around the country. The Project was funded by NHS Health Technology Assessment Programme.

Bell’s Palsy affects around 1 in 60 people during their lifetime, or around 100 people per month in Scotland. It can strike almost anyone at any age but disproportionately affects pregnant women and sufferers of diabetes, flu, colds and other upper respiratory ailments. High-profile sufferers of the condition, which affects around 1 in 60 people, have included George Clooney and Pierce Brosnan.

The condition was first identified by Scottish clinician Sir Charles Bell in the 19th century but its cause remains a mystery. Sufferers are affected by a sudden paralysis, characterised by the swelling of the facial nerve located in its bony canal in the skull. In good working order, the nerve enables facial expression.

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