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Plast Reconstr Surg. 2005 Mar;115(3):681-6.

Predictors of velopharyngeal insufficiency in cleft palate orthognathic surgery.

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The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


The purpose of this study was to appraise the value of preoperative speech assessments, nasopharyngoscopy, and surgical models as predictors of velopharyngeal deterioration after a Le Fort I maxillary advancement in cleft patients. This retrospective study involved a series of 26 cleft patients (16 unilateral complete and nine bilateral complete cleft lips and palates, and one isolated complete cleft palate) who had Le Fort I maxillary advancements between March 1, 1993, and February 7, 1996. The 13 male patients and 13 female patients ranged in age from 15.3 to 46 years (mean age, 19.5 years). Four of these patients had previously undergone pharyngeal flap surgery. Eleven patients had palatal fistulas and one had a bifid uvula that was repaired at the time of orthognathic surgery. Patients with perceived hypernasal speech preoperatively all had hypernasality after advancement (nine of nine). Velopharyngeal insufficiency was observed in two of the 16 whose resonance preoperatively was within normal limits. Speech assessment, therefore, predicted accurately the postoperative status in 23 of 26 patients. Twelve patients had preoperative nasopharyngoscopy that indicated a high risk for velopharyngeal insufficiency (borderline or inadequate closure). Nine of these patients had postoperative velopharyngeal insufficiency. Two of the 14 patients not judged at risk by nasopharyngoscopy developed velopharyngeal insufficiency. Therefore, 21 of the 26 patients were accurately predicted by nasopharyngoscopy. Scoping detected borderline velopharyngeal insufficiency in one patient who was not detected by speech alone. The combined predictive value of speech and scope identified all but one patient who would develop postoperative velopharyngeal insufficiency. The degree of anteroposterior movement determined from surgical models was not predictive of the outcome. Patients with hypernasal speech preoperatively continue to have hypernasal speech after Le Fort I advancement. Preoperative perceptual speech assessment by specially trained speech-language pathologists is an excellent test for predicting postoperative velopharyngeal insufficiency status. Nasopharyngoscopy is an invasive and resource-dependent test that should be assessed with respect to cost effectiveness. In this series, only one patient's risk was more accurately predicted using nasopharyngoscopy than by speech assessment alone.

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