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Repair of Anterior Cleft Palate Fistulae with Cancellous Bone Graft: A Simple Technique That Facilitates Dental Reconstruction

Martin-Smith, James D. M.R.C.S.I.; O'Sullivan, J. Barry F.R.C.S.I.(Plast.); Duggan, Laura; O'Mahony, Aisling; Orr, David J. A. F.R.C.S.I.(Plast.)

Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery: March 2013 - Volume 131 - Issue 3 - p 380e–387e
doi: 10.1097/PRS.0b013e31827c7027
Pediatric/Craniofacial: Original Articles

Background: Cleft palate fistulas of the anterior hard palate following previous repair are a challenging surgical problem. In addition to nasal regurgitation and potential adverse effects on speech, these fistulas may necessitate obturation with a removable dental prosthesis and can mitigate a fixed prosthodontic dental reconstruction. The authors present a method of repair using cancellous bone graft and only native palatal mucosa.

Methods: The authors carried out a retrospective review of 27 consecutive patients who underwent anterior palate fistula repair performed by a single surgeon over an 8-year period.

Results: The authors performed 29 fistula closure procedures using cancellous bone on 27 consecutive patients. Twenty-three (85 percent) of the initial 27 palatal fistula repairs in this study resulted in complete closure of the fistula. Two of the four patients who had incomplete closure went on to have a second operation using exactly the same technique, and complete closure was achieved. The remaining two patients in whom only partial closure was achieved were asymptomatic and no further treatment was necessary. All patients had an improvement in fistula symptoms after surgery. All patients who were using removable dentures/obturators were restored with fixed dental restorations supported by osseointegrated implants or fixed conventional bridges.

Conclusions: This relatively simple method achieves reliable closure of most anterior hard palate fistulas and can be repeated if necessary. This technique removes the necessity of obturation of the defect with a removable prosthesis and in some cases facilitates the placement of dental implants.


Dublin, Ireland

From the Department of Cleft Surgery, St. James's Hospital & Our Lady's Hospital for Children.

Received for publication July 9, 2012; accepted September 26, 2012.

Presented at the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive, and Aesthetic Surgeons Meeting, in London, United Kingdom, November 30 through December 2, 2011, and the Irish Association of Plastic Surgeons Meeting, in Dublin, Ireland, November 25, 2011.

Disclosure: The authors have no financial interest in the products named in this article. There was no external funding for this study.

James D. Martin-Smith, M.R.C.S.I.; Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, St. James's Hospital, James's Street, Dublin 8, Ireland,

©2013American Society of Plastic Surgeons