Surgery saves girl’s face from Parry-Romberg syndrome

Before and after plastic surgery photos of a 55-year-old Parry-Romberg syndrome sufferer. The disorder is in an advanced stage.

An example of Parry-Romberg syndrome in advanced stage (left). (Photo Credit: CC BY-ND/Plastic Surgery 2009)

Without surgery , 11-year-old Christine Honeycutt would have been resigned to a life of dramatic deformation and serious neurological trouble. Diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disorder called Parry-Romberg syndrome, the left side of Honeycutt’s face stopped growing when she was 5 years old. Yet reconstructive microvascular surgery has greatly helped, reports CNN.

The thin gray line of Parry-Romberg syndrome

When Christine Honeycutt was five, a line appeared down the middle of her forehead. Her parents thought it was a bruise; her friends thought she had ink on her face. When the mark was still there after a few weeks, Christine’s mother took her to see a doctor, who prescribed a cream to treat the “discoloration.”

After five months, the line became more pronounced. The Honeycutts moved from Charlotte, N.C., to southern California so Christine could see a specialist. Unfortunately, the specialist gave the Honeycutts the same advice — keep Christine out of the sun — that they’d heard before. By the time young Christine Honeycutt was in first grade, abnormal weight gain, fevers and violent seizures began. The right side of her face appeared normal, but the left side was swollen. A clear asymmetry had developed that a geneticist would diagnose a few years later (in 2008) as Parry-Romberg syndrome.

One in a million suffer from Parry-Romberg syndrome

The extremely rare autoimmune disorder Parry-Romberg syndrome (aka progressive facial hemiatrophy) is found in only one in 1 million people, most commonly in females. Some believe Abraham Lincoln may have had the disorder. Christine Honeycutt’s immune system was wreaking havoc on her left side, most notably in the face. The line running down Christine’s forehead – the “coup de sabre,” or “cut of a saber” – looked like a scar from a sword fight. It was similar to Parry-Romberg syndrome pictures found online.

“There were horrifying pictures,” said Vicki Honeycutt, Christine’s mother. “One side [of a patient’s face] was a skeleton and the other side wasn’t.”

No cure, save reconstructive surgery and ongoing treatments

There is no cure for Parry-Romberg syndrome. Facial reconstructive surgery and immuno-supressant drugs can be beneficial, as has been the case so far for Christine Honeycutt. Extensive plastic surgery – which took about seven hours to complete – has placed her back on the path to normalcy. There is still some swelling, but not enough to keep Christine away from school.

“I like my nose better now,” she said.



National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

Parry-Romberg syndrome Resource

Other recent posts by bryanh