Aug. 1, 2012 -- An Arizona doctor is thrilled to be still after surgery to stop a spasm in the muscles of his face.
Dr. Vic Oyas said the spasm started more than 20 years ago as a tiny twitch in his left eye.
"I didn't pay much attention to it at the time," said Oyas, a pediatrician in Lake Havasu City, Ariz. "It would come and go, and we all get the odd twitch here and there."
But Oyas's twitch gradually grew to cover the entire left side of his face and even his shoulder -- a condition called a hemifacial spasm.
"Patients would say, 'Hey doc, you're twitching,'" Oyas said, recalling the bluntness of his young patients. "It was a little embarrassing."
Muscle relaxants helped, but they made Oyas drowsy. And Botox injections to calm the contractions wore off every three months. So Oyas decided to stop the spasm for good with surgery.
"His condition was caused by a normal blood vessel that, by an accident of nature, ended up pressing on a nerve," said Dr. Neil Martin, the University of California, Los Angeles surgeon who performed the July 16 procedure.
Through a small incision behind Oyas's left ear, Martin placed a tiny Teflon pad between the offending artery and the pinched nerve.
"Once the pressure is relieved, the nerve begins to heal itself," said Martin, describing how he glued the pad in place with a protein found in blood clots. "For most people the twitch is gone, or at least better, right after surgery."
Oyas said he felt "instant relief" after the three-hour operation.
"I haven't felt this good in years," he said. "I'm so grateful that my misery over."
Although a hemifacial spasm is not a life-threatening condition, the consequences -- both personal and professional -- can be profound.
"To have your face constantly twitching with no way to stop it is very distracting; very socially and emotionally disabling," Martin said. "Some people don't want to leave home."
As a doctor, Oyas understood both the benefits and risks of the surgery.
"At some point, even physicians have to relinquish control and be patients like everyone else," said Martin. "He went through it with courage and grace. He was a great patient."
Two weeks after the surgery, Oyas is back in Arizona and ready to return to work.
"I'm still taking it easy," he said, describing the two-week-old wound healing behind his ear amid hair re-growing from a pre-op shave. "I still have a bit of a Mohawk."