The Double-Opposing Buccal Flap Procedure for Palatal Lengthening

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Abstract

Background:

Velopharyngeal dysfunction has been treated with either a pharyngeal flap or sphincteroplasty with varying degrees of success. Both of these entities have their own series of problems, with sleep apnea and nasal mucous flow disruptions at the forefront. The purpose of this study was to review the senior author's (R.J.M.) experience performing the double-opposing buccal flap for palatal lengthening.

Methods:

All patients who were treated with double-opposing buccal flaps between October of 1994 and July of 2007 were reviewed. These patients presented with varying degrees of velopharyngeal dysfunction showing some degree of velar movement at the time of surgery. Preoperative and postoperative speech results were reviewed for comparison.

Results:

Twenty-seven patients underwent palatal lengthening, with an average length of follow-up of 58 months. Distal flap necrosis occurred in two patients. The level of intelligibility (65.4 percent versus 95.5 percent) and resonance (moderately hypernasal versus normal resonance) improved significantly postoperatively (p < 0.0001). Only one patient required the addition of a pharyngeal flap for persistent velopharyngeal dysfunction, and there were no postoperative issues with sleep apnea.

Conclusions:

The double-opposing buccal flap is an effective technique for lengthening the palate, improving speech, and decreasing the risks of postoperative sleep apnea. All patients experienced a dramatic improvement in their resonance and intelligibility. This technique appears most effective in patients with intact velar movement who demonstrate a small to moderate posterior velar gap. The double-opposing buccal flap is a useful means of treating velopharyngeal dysfunction, thus serving as an adjunct when improving pharyngeal closure.

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