Gelfoam Interposition Minimizes Risk of Fistula and Postoperative Bleeding in Modified-Furlow Palatoplasty

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Failure to accomplish a tension-free, watertight closure predisposes the palatoplasty patient to fistula formation. Perioperative bleeding also places the patient at risk for adverse airway events (AAE). This study introduces the incorporation of a hemostatic gelatin sponge (Gelfoam) into layered palatoplasty to minimize adverse postoperative bleeding and fistula formation. A retrospective chart review was performed to identify subjects who underwent Furlow palatoplasty with insertion of Gelfoam from 2010 to 2015. Exclusion criteria include age >3 years, prior palate surgery, <30-day follow-up, immunosuppressive state, and diagnosis of Treacher–Collins or Apert Syndrome. Demographic data include age, sex, cleft laterality, prior surgeries, Veau classification, Pierre Robin status, and tracheostomy dependence. Primary outcome was fistula formation. Secondary outcomes included perioperative metrics and AAE.

One hundred subjects met criteria, 45% female. Average age was 14.6 months. Subjects with syndromes comprised 28%, with 16% diagnosed with Pierre Robin. Two subjects were tracheostomy-dependent. Prior cleft and mandibular procedures were performed in 55%. Isolated palatal defects were seen in 46%, unilateral lip and palate in 41%, and bilateral lip and palate in 13%. The majority of defects were Veau II and III (35% and 34%, respectively). Adverse airway events occurred in 2%, one of which resulted in reintubation. One subject (1%) was found to have a postoperative fistula.

The incorporation of Gelfoam in the modified-Furlow palatoplasty results in a low rate of oronasal fistula (1%) and low perioperative risk of AAE. Further prospective comparison of this method to others will be the focus of future work.

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