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Plast Reconstr Surg. 2001 Jul;108(1):17-25; discussion 26-9.

Results with Furlow palatoplasty in management of velopharyngeal insufficiency.

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Division of Pediatric Otolaryngology, Department of Surgery, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA 98105.


A retrospective study was undertaken to assess speech outcomes in patients undergoing Furlow palatoplasty. Since 1994, the authors have used the position of the levator veli palatini musculature to determine type of surgical intervention recommended for the management of velopharyngeal insufficiency. Furlow palatoplasty has been used in patients with clinical evidence of sagittally oriented levator veli palatini musculature. Forty-eight patients who underwent a Furlow palatoplasty between June of 1994 and August of 1998 were included. All patients underwent preoperative and postoperative perceptual speech analyses to describe velopharyngeal insufficiency severity, nasal air emissions, and resonance, and preoperative nasendoscopy to assess velopharyngeal gap size and palatal and lateral pharyngeal wall movement. Other patient characteristics considered included gender, age at time of surgery, previously repaired cleft palate, submucous cleft palate, and syndrome diagnosis. Speech outcomes were determined on the basis of postoperative perceptual speech analyses and were categorized in one of three ways: (1) complete resolution of velopharyngeal insufficiency, (2) substantial improvement of velopharyngeal insufficiency, and (3) audible residual velopharyngeal insufficiency. Complete resolution of velopharyngeal insufficiency was defined as normal resonance and an absence of nasal air emissions. Substantial improvement of velopharyngeal insufficiency was defined as an improvement of at least two categories in velopharyngeal insufficiency severity in those patients without complete resolution. Audible residual velopharyngeal insufficiency refers to patients with postoperative velopharyngeal insufficiency severity ratings of mild, moderate, or severe. The male:female ratio in the study was 27:21. Twelve patients were syndromic; three had velocardiofacial syndrome. The median age at surgery was 6.5 years (range, 2 to 22 years). The average duration of follow-up was 14.7 months (range, 1.3 to 58.6 months). Postoperatively, the severity of velopharyngeal insufficiency was rated as none in 19 of the 48 patients (39.6 percent), minimal in eight (16.7 percent), mild in six (12.5 percent), moderate in nine (18.75 percent), and severe in six (12.5 percent). Substantial improvement was seen in seven of the 29 patients without complete resolution. There was a significant association between male gender and complete resolution of velopharyngeal insufficiency (p < 0.05). Presence of syndrome and female gender was associated with audible residual velopharyngeal insufficiency (p < 0.05). The main complication was palatal fistula (two cases). In conclusion, most patients who underwent a Furlow palatoplasty had a complete resolution or substantial improvement of velopharyngeal insufficiency postoperatively, and there were few surgical complications.

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