Cleft Palate Repair: Description of an Approach, Its Evolution, and Analysis of Postoperative Fistulas

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Abstract

Background:

Fistulas following cleft palate repair impair speech, health, and hygiene and occur in up to 35 percent of cases. The authors detail the evolution of a surgical approach to palatoplasty; assess the rates, causes, and predictive factors of fistulas; and examine the temporal association of modifications to fistula rates.

Methods:

Consecutive patients (n = 146) undergoing palatoplasty during the first 6 years of practice were included. The technique of repair was based on cleft type, and a common surgical approach was used for all repairs.

Results:

The fistula rate was 2.4 percent (n = 125) after primary repair and 0 percent (n = 21) after secondary repair. All complications occurred in patients with type III or IV clefts. Cleft width and cleft-to–total palatal width ratio were associated with fistulas, whereas syndromes, age, and adoption were not. Most complications could also be attributed to technical factors. During the first 2 years, modifications were made around specific anatomical features, including periarticular bony hillocks, maxillopalatine suture, velopalatine pits, and tensor insertion. The fistula rate declined by one-half in subsequent years.

Conclusions:

The authors describe a surgical approach to cleft palate repair, its evolution, and surgically relevant anatomy. Fistulas were associated with increasing cleft severity but could also be attributed to technical factors. A reduction in frequency and severity of fistulas was consistent with a learning curve and may in part be associated with modifications to the surgical approach.

CLINICAL QUESTION/LEVEL OF EVIDENCE:

Therapeutic, IV.

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