The timing and management of patients with cleft palates have been controversial. Early soft palate closure at the time of cleft lip repair followed by hard palate closure at a second stage has been hypothesized to improve speech and audiology outcomes. This study compares cleft palate patients who have undergone single-stage versus 2-stage cleft palate repairs and the outcomes on speech and hearing.
A retrospective chart review identified patients with diagnosis of cleft lip with complete cleft palate who underwent either single or 2-stage repair from 2006 to 2012. Data collected included age at each surgery, necessity of further speech surgery for velopharyngeal insufficiency, frequency of tympanostomy tube placement, presence of hearing loss, and speech assessment data graded per the validated Americleft speech scale.
A total of 84 patients were identified and subdivided into groups of single-stage and 2-stage repair. The mean age at the time of single-stage palate repair was 13.3 months. For the 2-stage group, the mean ages were 4.2 and 11.8 months for the soft palate and hard palate repairs, respectively. Comparing the single-stage versus 2-stage palate repairs, there was no significant difference in all speech parameters including hypernasality, hyponasality, nasal air emission, articulation, expressive language, receptive language, speech intelligibility, and speech acceptability for both unilateral and bilateral cleft lip/palate patients. Two-stage repair was associated with increased number of tympanostomy tube placement compared with single-stage repair (relative risk, 1.74; P = 0.009), and the first set of tubes was performed at a statistically significantly younger age, 4.5 months in the 2-stage repair compared with 16.9 months in the single-stage (P = 0.012) with 87.5% performed with first stage of repair. However, there was no difference in the types, degrees of hearing loss, or the presence of at least mild conductive hearing loss at latest follow-up audiograms between the groups.
There was no significant benefit with respect to speech or hearing outcomes between single-stage and 2-stage cleft palate repairs. This advocates for surgeon and family preference in the timing of cleft palate repair.