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Afr J Paediatr Surg. 2018 Apr-Jun;15(2):88-92. doi: 10.4103/ajps.AJPS_131_16.

Tongue flap as salvage procedure for recurrent and large palatal fistula after cleft palate repair.

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Department of Pediatric Surgery, Sri Aurobindo Institute of Medical Sciences and Postgraduate Institute, Indore, Madhya Pradesh, India.



Recurrent palatal fistula is a common complication of cleft palate repair. The main causes are poor surgical technique or vascular accidents and infection. Local flaps are not adequate for larger and recurrent fistula. The aim of this study is to analyze the utility of tongue flap in recurrent and large palatal fistula repair.

Materials and Methods:

From January 2008 to July 2016, 18 patients with recurrent palatal fistula were included in the study. All the patients had undergone repair of cleft palate and fistula previously. Tongue flap repair of the recurrent palatal fistula was performed in all 18 patients. The flaps were divided after 3 weeks and final inset was done. Flap viability, fistula closure, residual tongue function, esthetics, and speech impediment were assessed.


In all the patients, fistula could be closed primarily by tongue flap. None of the patients developed flap necrosis while flap dehiscence and bleeding were observed in one patient each. No functional deformity of the tongue and donor-site morbidity was seen. Speech was improved in 80% cases.


The central position, mobility, excellent vascularity, and versatility of tongue flap make particularly suitable choice for the repair of large fistula in palates scarred by previous surgery. It is very well tolerated by children. We, therefore, recommend tongue flap for large and recurrent palatal fistula in children.


Cleft palate; palatal fistula; recurrent fistula; tongue flap

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