Obstructive Sleep Apnea Following Pharyngeal Flap Surgery for Velopharyngeal Insufficiency: A Prospective Polysomnographic and Aerodynamic Study in Middle-Aged Adults

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To compare the frequency and severity of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) in middle-aged adults who underwent pharyngeal flap surgery for velopharyngeal insufficiency (VPI) with matched subjects who did not undergo pharyngeal flap surgery and to verify the relationship between OSA severity and internal pharyngeal dimensions.


National referral care center for cleft lip and palate.


Prospective study on 42 nonsyndromic subjects with repaired cleft palate with flap (F group, n = 22) and without flap (NF group, n = 20), aged 40 to 58 years. The main outcome measure was the apnea-hypopnea index (AHI), measured by in-lab nocturnal polysomnography (PSG). The OSA-related symptoms were investigated by Pittsburgh, Epworth, and Berlin questionnaires. The nasopharyngeal or velopharyngeal (NP/VP) cross-sectional area was measured by modified anterior rhinomanometry in subgroups of the F (n = 14) and NF (n = 10) groups at rest and during speech. Differences were considered significant at P < .05.


Questionnaire scores and frequency of self-reported symptoms of snoring, nasal obstruction, and breathing interruptions during sleep did not differ between groups. OSA was diagnosed by PSG in 60% and 77% of the NF and F subjects, respectively. The difference was not significant. No cases of severe OSA were observed. There was no correlation between AHI and NP/VP area.


A significant number of middle-aged adults with repaired cleft palate had OSA and related symptoms, regardless of the presence of a pharyngeal flap. Results suggest that VPI treatment with a flap may not cause sleep-disordered breathing in the cleft population. Besides advancing age, congenital upper airway abnormalities may be involved.

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