Care for patients with cleft lip and palate is best managed by a craniofacial team consisting of a variety of specialists, including surgeons, who are generally plastic surgeons or otolaryngologists trained in the United States. The goal of this study was to compare the surgical approaches and management algorithms of cleft lip, cleft palate, and nasal reconstruction between plastic surgeons and otolaryngologists.
We performed a retrospective analysis of the American College of Surgeons' National Surgical Quality Improvement Program Pediatric database between 2012 and 2014 to identify patients undergoing primary repair of cleft lip, cleft palate, and associated rhinoplasty. Two cohorts based on primary specialty, plastic surgeons and otolaryngologists, were compared in relation to patient characteristics, 30-day postoperative outcomes, procedure type, and intraoperative variables.
Plastic surgeons performed the majority of surgical repairs, with 85.5% (n = 1,472) of cleft lip, 79.3% (n = 2,179) of cleft palate, and 87.9% (n = 465) of rhinoplasty procedures. There was no difference in the age of primary cleft lip repair or rhinoplasty. However, plastic surgeons performed primary cleft palate repair earlier than otolaryngologists (p = 0.03). Procedure type varied between the specialties. In rhinoplasty, otolaryngologists were more likely to use septal or ear cartilage, whereas plastic surgeons preferred rib cartilage. Results were similar, with no statistically significant difference in terms of mortality, reoperation, readmission, or complications.
Significant variation exists in the treatment of cleft lip and palate based on specialty service with regard to procedure timing and type. However, short-term rates of mortality, wound occurrence, reoperation, readmission, and surgical or medical complications remain similar.