Background: Velopharyngeal insufficiency occurs in 5 to 20 percent of children following repair of a cleft palate. The pharyngeal flap is the traditional secondary procedure for correcting velopharyngeal insufficiency; however, because of perceived complications, alternative techniques have become popular. The authors' purpose was to assess a single surgeon's long-term experience with a tailored superiorly based pharyngeal flap to correct velopharyngeal insufficiency in nonsyndromic patients with a repaired cleft palate.
Methods: The authors reviewed the records of all children who underwent a pharyngeal flap performed by the senior author (J.B.M.) between 1981 and 2008. The authors evaluated age of repair, perceptual speech outcome, need for a secondary operation, and complications. Success was defined as normal or borderline sufficient velopharyngeal function. Failure was defined as borderline insufficiency or severe velopharyngeal insufficiency with recommendation for another procedure.
Results: The authors identified 104 nonsyndromic patients who required a pharyngeal flap following cleft palate repair. The mean age at pharyngeal flap surgery was 8.6 ± 4.9 years. Postoperative speech results were available for 79 patients. Operative success with normal or borderline sufficient velopharyngeal function was achieved in 77 patients (97 percent). Obstructive sleep apnea was documented in two patients.
Conclusion: The tailored superiorly based pharyngeal flap is highly successful in correcting velopharyngeal insufficiency, with a low risk of complication, in nonsyndromic patients with repaired cleft palate.