The two-flap palatoplasty was predominantly utilized for fistula repairs (15 of 20). Pittsburgh type IV and V fistulas were repaired exclusively by two-flap palatoplasty technique; Pittsburgh type III were repaired utilizing the von Langenbeck (3), two-flap palatoplasty (2), and rotational (in 2 small fistulas) techniques. Complete fistula closure was obtained in 16 patients (80%; Fig. 2); 2 of whom had temporary dehiscence of the oral mucosal layer that subsequently healed without evidence of fistula. Three patients (15%) had partial closure with reduction of the fistula size and minimization of symptoms; 1 of these 3 patients had significant reduction in fistula size and was no longer symptomatic. One patient (5%) had recurrent fistula without improvement in size or extent of nasal regurgitation. The recurrent fistula locations included 1 at the junction of the primary and secondary palates (type V), 2 in the hard palate (IV), and 1 at the junction of the hard and soft palate (III).
Indications for fistula repair are generally related to the symptomatic presentation including hypernasality and nasal regurgitation of oral contents. Although fistula repair has been demonstrated to improve these symptoms,13 often these fistulas are simply not repaired. The patient and family “make their peace with the fistula” or may opt for a palatal appliance that covers the fistula.14,15 However, an obturator is associated with low patient compliance and often provides an insufficient seal, especially as the patient ages.16 Consequently, surgical treatment continues to be the most advocated and effective method for fistula closure.17
In this study, we used the two-flap palatoplasty technique for type IV and V fistulas. For type III fistulas, we used all 3 techniques, depending on the fistula size. Rotational flap techniques were used in smaller fistulas.
The site most likely for fistula recurrence following fistula repair is generally at the junction of the primary and secondary palate (type V)26; however, in our study, similarly to Landheer et al.27 2 fistulas were present within the hard palate (type IV), 1 at the junction of hard and soft palate (type III), and 1 at the junction of the primary and secondary palate (type V). In this series, we achieved complete fistula closure in 16 of 20 patients. Of the 4 patients with fistula recurrence, 1 repair failed and was repaired using a tongue flap. Overall, we had 3 symptomatic fistulas (15%) and a success rate of 85%, with fistula distributions by Pittsburgh classification similar to those seen in other publications. These results are favorable compared with both non-ADM fistula repair recurrence rates (33–37%),19,28 and the most recent reports of fistula repair with ADM (20–33%).26,29
In addition to the tension-free closure achieved by interposing autografts, the ADM provides a scaffold for tissue ingrowth, revascularization, and mucosal epithelialization without any evidence of donor-site morbidity or immunologic rejection and the expense of additional surgery time.
Utilizing ADM for cleft palate fistula repair as an interposition layer is a safe and simple procedure that reduces fistula recurrence compared with closures without ADM. A larger, prospective, randomized trial is required for determining efficacy in secondary and tertiary fistula repairs.
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