Revision rates and speech outcomes following pharyngeal flap surgery for velopharyngeal insufficiency

D. Setabutr, Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine
C. T. Roth
D. D. Nolen
B. Cervenka
J. M. Sykes
C. W. Senders
T. T. Tollefson


IMPORTANCE: Velopharyngeal insufficiency in children with cleft palate (and other causes) contributes to difficulty with communication and quality of life. The pharyngeal flap is a workhorse to address hypernasality and nasal air escape. However, there is a paucity of literature on the characteristics of cases that require revision. OBJECTIVE: To measure the revision rate of pharyngeal flaps, compare the preperceptual and postperceptual speech scores, and identify the characteristics of those patients who required revision. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: A retrospective medical record review was completed for patients who underwent pharyngeal flap surgery from June 1, 2008, through January 31, 2013, at a tertiary academic center. MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: Perceptual speech analyses and surgical revision rates. Perceptual speech patterns before and after surgery were compared using nasal air emission and resonance scores. The association between requiring revision surgery and covariates was analyzed using multivariable mixed-effects logistic regression. RESULTS: Sixty-one patients were identified, including 24 boys (39%) and 37 girls (61%). The mean (SD) patient age at the time of pharyngeal flap surgery was 8.2 (6.8) years (range, 3-55 years). Velopharyngeal insufficiency was associated with cleft palate in 51 patients (84%), and 17 patients (28%) had a syndrome. The mean (SD) time to surgery after the speech evaluation was 225 (229) days (range, 14-1341 days). The mean (SD) nasal air emission scores decreased by -1.1 (2.0 [1.1] preoperatively to 0.8 [1.1] postoperatively). The mean (SD) resonance score decreased by -1.5 (2.4 [1.1] preoperatively to 0.9 [1.1] postoperatively; P < .001). Flaps were revised in 12 patients (20%), including port revision in 9, complete flap revision in 2, and flap takedown in 1. The only covariate that was significantly associated with revision rates was increased age at surgery, which was associated with a higher probability of revision surgery (odds ratio, 1.31; 95% CI, 1.03-1.66; P = .04). CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: Pharyngeal flap surgery, when appropriately selected, was effective at improving speech with a revision rate of 20%, which is comparable to previously published studies. Increased age at the time of the pharyngeal flap surgery was associated with an increased need for revision surgery, supporting evidence that cleft centers should encourage early childhood speech evaluations with consistent documentation and prompt treatment. LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: 3.