Autologous Fat Injection for Treatment of Velopharyngeal Insufficiency

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Management of velopharyngeal insufficiency (VPI) has traditionally involved surgical repair to improve speech. Posterior pharyngeal augmentation using injectable synthetic materials has been advocated. However, outcomes have been equivocal. More recently, autologous fat injection (AFI) has been advocated for correction of mild to moderate VPI. However, long-term efficacy and safety of this procedure remain unsettled.


A systematic review of the literature was performed. Available studies that reported outcomes of autologous fat velopharyngeal injection for treatment of documented VPI were included. Preclinical animal studies were excluded. Study characteristics, patient demographics, treatment details including fat harvest site, volume injected, and outcome measures were evaluated.


Fifteen studies met inclusion criteria, yielding 251 patients who underwent AFI. There was high variability in terms of indications for procedure and reporting of outcomes. Majority of studies required velopharyngeal gap closure of at least 50% in order to undergo AFI. Most common etiology of VPI was secondary to cleft palate. Some studies included patients with velocardiofacial syndromes. Improvements in speech and nasalance were reported in a majority of patients. Major complications were rare. Only 1 patient with graft hypertrophy resulting in obstructive sleep apnea was reported.


Autologous fat injection offers a minimally invasive approach to the treatment of VPI. Current literature is limited to small noncomparative studies. These appear to suggest efficacy and safety in mild to moderate patients with VPI. Future prospective studies with standardized technique and objective outcomes are required to definitively establish its safety and efficacy, as well as define patient selection criteria.

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