Background: Analysis of the composition of muscle fibers constituent to a cleft palate could provide significant insight into the cause of velopharyngeal inadequacy. The authors hypothesized that levator veli palatini muscle dysfunction inherent to cleft palates could affect the timing and outcome of cleft palate repair.
Methods: Single, permeabilized muscle fibers from levator veli palatini muscles of three normal (n = 19 fibers) and three chemically induced congenital cleft palates (n = 21 fibers) of 14-month-old goats were isolated, and contractile properties were evaluated. The maximum isometric force and rate constants of tension redevelopment (ktr) were measured, and the specific force and normalized power were calculated for each fiber.
Results: The ktr measures indicate that cleft fibers are predominantly fast-fatigable; normal fibers are slow fatigue-resistant: after a 10-minute isometric contraction, fibers from cleft palates had a loss of force 16 percent greater than that from normal palates (p = 0.0001). The cross-sectional areas of the fibers from cleft palates (2750 ± 209 μm2) were greater (p = 0.05) than those from normal palates (2226 ± 143 μm2). Specific forces did not differ between the two groups. Maximum normalized power of fibers from cleft palates (11.05 ± 1.82 W/l) was greater (p = 0.0001) than fibers from normal palates (1.60 ± 0.12 W/l).
Conclusions: There are clear physiologic differences in single muscle fibers from cleft palates and normal palates: cleft palate fibers are physiologically fast, have greater fatigability, and have greater power production. Detection of functional and/or fiber type differences in muscles of cleft palates may provide preoperative identification of a patient’s susceptibility to velopharyngeal inadequacy and permit early surgical intervention to correct this clinical condition.