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Cover of Treatments for Ankyloglossia and Ankyloglossia With Concomitant Lip-Tie

Treatments for Ankyloglossia and Ankyloglossia With Concomitant Lip-Tie

Comparative Effectiveness Reviews, No. 149

Investigators: , MD, MS, , MD, MPH, , MD, , PhD, MPH, , MD, , MBBS, MPH, , MA, MLIS, and , PhD, MPH.

Author Information and Affiliations
Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US); .
Report No.: 15-EHC011-EF

Structured Abstract


We systematically reviewed the literature on surgical and nonsurgical treatments for infants and children with ankyloglossia and ankyloglossia with concomitant lip-tie.

Data sources:

We searched MEDLINE® (PubMed®), PsycINFO®, Cumulative Index of Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL®) and Embase (Excerpta Medica Database), as well as the reference lists of included studies and recent systematic reviews. We conducted the searches between September 2013 and August 2014.

Review methods:

We included studies of interventions for ankyloglossia published in English. Two investigators independently screened studies against predetermined inclusion criteria and independently rated the quality of included studies. We extracted data into evidence tables and summarized them qualitatively.


We included 58 unique studies comprising 6 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) (3 good, 1 fair, 2 poor quality), 3 cohort studies (all poor quality), 33 case series, 15 case reports, and 1 unpublished thesis. Most studies assessed the effects of frenotomy (a procedure in which the lingual frenulum is divided) on breastfeeding-related outcomes. Four RCTs reported improvements in breastfeeding efficacy using either maternally reported or observer ratings, while two RCTs using observer ratings found no improvement. Mothers consistently reported improved breastfeeding effectiveness after frenotomy, but outcome measures were heterogeneous and short term. Future studies could provide additional data to confirm or change the measure of effectiveness; thus, we consider the strength of evidence (SOE; confidence in the estimate of effect) to be low at this time. Furthermore, this literature is characterized by (1) a lack of details about the surgical procedure, (2) cointerventions allowed variably in control groups, and (3) diversity of provider settings. Pain outcomes improved for mothers of frenotomized infants compared with control in one study of 6-day old infants but not in studies of infants a few weeks older. Given these inconsistencies and the small number of comparative studies and participants, the SOE is low for an immediate reduction in nipple pain. Three studies with significant limitations reported improvements in other feeding outcomes with frenotomy, and four poor-quality studies reported some improvements in speech articulation but mixed results related to overall speech sound production. Three poor-quality comparative studies noted some improvements in social concerns and gains in tongue mobility in treated participants. SOE for all of these outcomes is insufficient. SOE is moderate for minor and short-term bleeding following surgery and insufficient for other harms (reoperation, pain).


A small body of evidence suggests that frenotomy may be associated with improvements in breastfeeding as reported by mothers, and potentially in nipple pain, but with small short-term studies, inconsistently conducted, SOE is generally low to insufficient. Comparative studies reported improvements in some measures of speech, but assessment of outcomes was inconsistent. Few studies addressed tongue mobility and self-esteem issues. Research is lacking on nonsurgical interventions, as well as on outcomes other than breastfeeding.


Prepared for: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services1, Contract No. 290-2012-00009-I. Prepared by: Vanderbilt Evidence-based Practice Center, Nashville, TN

Suggested citation:

Francis DO, Chinnadurai S, Morad A, Epstein RA, Kohanim S, Krishnaswami S, Sathe NA, McPheeters ML. Treatments for Ankyloglossia and Ankyloglossia With Concomitant Lip-Tie. Comparative Effectiveness Review No. 149. (Prepared by the Vanderbilt Evidence-based Practice Center under Contract No. 290-2012-00009-I.) AHRQ Publication No. 15-EHC011-EF. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; May 2015. www.effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov/reports/final.cfm.

This report is based on research conducted by the Vanderbilt Evidence-based Practice Center (EPC) under contract to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), Rockville, MD (Contract No. 290-2012-00009-I). The findings and conclusions in this document are those of the authors, who are responsible for its contents; the findings and conclusions do not necessarily represent the views of AHRQ. Therefore, no statement in this report should be construed as an official position of AHRQ or of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The information in this report is intended to help health care decisionmakers—patients and clinicians, health system leaders, and policymakers, among others—make well-informed decisions and thereby improve the quality of health care services. This report is not intended to be a substitute for the application of clinical judgment. Anyone who makes decisions concerning the provision of clinical care should consider this report in the same way as any medical reference and in conjunction with all other pertinent information, i.e., in the context of available resources and circumstances presented by individual patients.

AHRQ or U.S. Department of Health and Human Services endorsement of any derivative products that may be developed from this report, such as clinical practice guidelines, other quality enhancement tools, or reimbursement or coverage policies, may not be stated or implied.

This report may periodically be assessed for the currency of conclusions. If an assessment is done, the resulting surveillance report describing the methodology and findings will be found on the Effective Health Care Program Web site at www.effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov. Search on the title of the report.

None of the investigators have any affiliations or financial involvement that conflicts with the material presented in this report.


540 Gaither Road, Rockville, MD 20850; www​.ahrq.gov

Bookshelf ID: NBK299120PMID: 26065053


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