Morphology of the Levator Veli Palatini Muscle in Adults With Repaired Cleft Palate

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The purpose of this study was to examine differences in levator veli palatini (levator) morphology between adults with repaired cleft palate and adults with noncleft anatomy. Fifteen adult participants (10 with noncleft anatomy, 5 with repaired cleft palate) underwent 3-dimensional (3D) static magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Image analyses included measures of total muscle volume and the circumference and diameter at 6 points along the length of the muscle. Differences between groups were analyzed using independent sample Mann–Whitney U tests (α < 0.05). Significant differences between groups were noted for measures of muscle volume, circumference at the origin and midline, anterior–posterior diameter at the origin and midline, and superior–inferior diameter at the point of insertion into the velum and midline. Differences in measures at other points along the levator muscle belly were not statistically significant. Limited sample size and gender differences may have impacted statistical findings. Overall, the levator muscle in adults with repaired cleft palate is significantly different than that of adults with noncleft anatomy. This study demonstrates the successful implementation of a method for 3D analysis of velopharyngeal (VP) musculature with potential clinical utility given continued technological advancements in MRI. Continued evaluation of pre- and postsurgical anatomy and short- and long-term outcomes may contribute to a better understanding of the effects of various types of palatoplasties on levator structure, which is important to VP function for speech.

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