Salvaging the failed pharyngoplasty: Intervention outcome

Peter D. Witt, Terry Myckatyn, Jeffrey L. Marsh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

48 Scopus citations


Objective: This paper reports on the rates of failure of operations (pharyngeal flap and sphincter pharyngoplasty) performed for management of velopharyngeal dysfunction, and outcome following their revision. Design: Anatomic abnormalities associated with unacceptable vocal resonance and nasal air escape following pharyngeal flap and sphincter pharyngoplasty were critiqued. The results of primary pharyngeal flap were evaluated for 65 patients, and the results of primary sphincter pharyngoplasty were evaluated for 123 patients. All patients were treated for velopharyngeal dysfunction. The definition of surgical failure was based on persistent hypernasality and/or nasal turbulence on perceptual speech evaluation, and incomplete velopharyngeal closure on instrumental evaluation, at least 3 months postoperatively. Setting: All patients were evaluated and managed at the Cleft Palate and Craniofacial Deformities Institute, St. Louis Children's Hospital, a tertiary cleft care center. Patients, Participants: All patients had failed surgical management initially, either with pharyngeal flap or sphincter pharyngoplasty, and all underwent repeat preoperative and postoperative perceptual speech evaluations; real-time lateral phonation fluoroscopy including still reference views; and flexible nasendoscopy of the velopharynx using standard speech protocols. Interventions: Revisional surgery for both procedures consisted of either tightening of the sphincter pharyngoplasty or pharyngeal flap port(s) or reinsertion of the sphincter pharyngoplasty or pharyngeal flaps following dehiscence. Main Outcome Measures: The main outcome measure was normalcy of velopharyngeal function, i.e., elimination of perceptual hypernasality and instrumental evidence of complete velopharyngeal closure. The rates of pharyngeal flap failure and sphincter pharyngoplasty failure were determined for those patients requiring surgical revision. Results: Thirteen of 65 patients (20%) who underwent primary pharyngeal flap required revisional surgery. Of these 13 patients, eight were managed successfully with a single revisional operation. The remaining five patients (38%) continued to exhibit velopharyngeal dysfunction and underwent a second revision consisting of tightening or augmentation of the lateral ports. Speech results were satisfactory in all patients so treated; however, hyponasality with no other airway morbidity occurred in all five. Twenty of 123 patients (16%) who underwent primary sphincter pharyngoplasty required surgical revision. Of these 20 patients, 17 were managed successfully. For both procedures, the principal cause of failure was partial or complete flap dehiscence. Conclusions: Rates of primary pharyngeal flap failure are roughly equivalent to rates of primary sphincter pharyngoplasty failure. Pharyngeal flap and sphincter pharyngoplasty failures can be salvaged with revisional surgery, which can provide a velopharyngeal mechanism capable of complete closure. Revisional surgery is usually associated with denasal speech.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)447-453
Number of pages7
JournalCleft Palate-Craniofacial Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Pharyngeal flap
  • Revision
  • Sphincter pharyngoplasty
  • Velopharyngeal
  • Velopharyngeal dysfunction

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