Universal Applicability of the Furlow Palatoplasty: Resident as Primary Surgeon in a Consecutive, Nonselective Series

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Abstract

Background

Questions persist regarding the general applicability of the Furlow palatoplasty technique, and thus, widespread adoption of its use has been uneven. This study describes a consecutive, nonselective series of primary Furlow palatoplasties. Highlighted is the unique fact that plastic surgical residents functioned as the primary surgeon for all steps of all procedures throughout the series.

Methods

A retrospective review was undertaken of all primary palatoplasties performed under the direction of the senior surgeon between December 2005 and April 2012. A stringent requirement for speech outcome reporting was patient age at the latest assessment of older than 4.5 years. Other measured parameters included fistula rate, incidence of secondary surgery, and procedure duration.

Results

Seventy-five patients were included in this study. Nasal resonance was rated as “normal” in 56.1% of the patients and “mildly hypernasal or better” in 95.1% of the patients. Articulation errors were detected in 14.6% of the patients, and symptoms related to nasal air emission were detected in 4.9% of the patients. Overall fistula rate was 5.3%. The following associations were detected: (1) Veau cleft type and procedure duration, P = 0.001; (2) resident year of training and procedure duration, P = 0.009; (3) developmental delay and resonance score, P = 0.002; (4) patient age at surgery and resonance score, P = 0.025; and (5) presence of syndrome and resonance score, P = 0.036.

Conclusions

This nonselective series of consecutive Furlow palatoplasty procedures demonstrates that plastic surgical residents are able to match best published clinical results performing the entire procedure under the close supervision and guidance of an assisting surgical mentor.

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