Current Practice in Assessing and Reporting Speech Outcomes of Cleft Palate and Velopharyngeal Surgery: A Survey of Cleft Palate/Craniofacial Professionals

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Objective:To determine methods by which professionals serving cleft palate/craniofacial teams are evaluating velopharyngeal function and to ascertain what they consider as a successful speech outcome of surgery.Design:A 12-question survey was developed for professionals involved in management of velopharyngeal dysfunction.Participants:The survey was distributed through E-mail lists for the American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association and Division 5 of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Only speech-language pathologists and surgeons were asked to complete the survey. A total of 126 questionnaires were completed online.Results:Standard speech evaluations include perceptual evaluation (99.2%), intraoral examination (96.8%), nasopharyngoscopy (59.3%), nasometry (28.9%), videofluoroscopy (19.2%), and aerodynamic measures (4.3%). Significant variation existed in the types and levels of perceptual rating scales. Pharyngeal flap (52.9%) is the most commonly performed procedure for velopharyngeal insufficiency, followed by sphincter pharyngoplasty (27.5%). Criteria for surgical success included normal speech (50.8%), acceptable speech (27.9%), and “improved” speech (8%). However, most respondents felt that success should be defined as normal speech (71.2%). Most respondents believed that surgical success should be determined by the team speech-language pathologist (81.5%); although, some felt success should be determined by the patient/family (17.7%).Conclusion:This survey shows considerable variability in the methods for evaluating and reporting speech outcomes following surgery. There is inconsistency in what is considered a successful surgical outcome, making comparison studies impossible. Most respondents thought that success should be defined as normal speech, but this is not happening in current practice.

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