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Cleft Palate Craniofac J. 2018 Jul;55(6):807-813. doi: 10.1597/16-007. Epub 2018 Feb 22.

Palatal Fistula Risk after Primary Palatoplasty: A Retrospective Comparison of a Humanitarian Organization and Tertiary Hospitals.



Humanitarian surgical organizations provide palatoplasties for patients without access to surgical care. Few organizations have evaluated the outcomes of these trips. This study evaluates the palatal fistula rate in patients from two cohorts in rural China and one in the United States.


This study compared the odds of fistula formation among three cohorts whose palates were repaired between 2005 and 2009. One cohort included 97 Chinese patients operated on by teams from the United States and Canada under the auspices of Resurge International. They were compared to cohorts at Huaxi Stomatology Hospital and the University of California San Francisco (UCSF). Age, fistula presence, and Veau class were compared among cohorts using Chi-square tests. Logistic regression was used to analyze predictors of fistula formation.


The fistula risk was 35.4% in patients treated by humanitarian teams, 12.8% at Huaxi University Hospital and 2.5% at UCSF ( P < 0.001). Age and Veau class were associated with fistula formation (Age P = 0.0015; Veau P < 0.001). ReSurge and Huaxi patients had 20.2 and 5.6 times the odds of developing a fistula, respectively, compared to UCSF patients ( P < 0.01, both). A multivariable model controlling for surgical group, age, and gender showed an association between Veau class and the odds of fistula formation.


Chinese children undergoing palatoplasty by international teams had higher odds of palatal fistula than children treated by Chinese surgeons in established institutions and children treated in the United States. More research is required to identify factors affecting complication rates in low-resource environments.


fistula; palatoplasty


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