Background: Infants with Robin sequence (RS) suffer from upper airway obstruction (UAO) and feeding problems. We developed an oral appliance with a velar extension in combination with functional treatment and appropriate feeding techniques, which was proven effective in isolated RS. As the above problems are particularly challenging in syndromic RS, we set out to evaluate our treatment concept also in these patients.
Methods: We searched our electronic departmental database to identify all children admitted to our department between 01/01/2003 and 31/12/2009 because of syndromic RS. UAO was quantified by cardiorespiratory sleep studies performed before and during treatment with a modified palatal plate. This appliance consists of a palatal part, covering the hard palate as well as the alveolar ridges and the potential cleft, and a velar extension shifting the tongue in a more anterior position, thereby opening the pharyngeal airway. It is adjusted by fiberoptic nasopharyngoscopy and controlled by cardiorespiratory sleep studies. Obstructive sleep apnea was defined as a mixed obstructive sleep apnea index (MOAI) >3/h. Feeding modalities before and after treatment and weight gain, determined as standard deviation score, were also evaluated.
Results: Of 68 children meeting inclusion criteria, 56 completed treatment (46 of these being infants). Underlying diagnoses included craniofacial dysostosis (N = 13) and synostosis syndromes (N = 5), unspecified dysmorphic syndromes (N = 23) and miscellaneous rare conditions (N = 27). Median MOAI decreased from 8.5 (range 0.3-76.0) at admission to 1.1 (0.0-5.2) at discharge (p < 0.001). 51 children received only a TPP and 5 additionally continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) or high-flow nasal cannula during sleep for mild residual OSA. Three children ultimately required tracheostomy. The number of exclusively gavage fed infants was reduced from 23 to 7. Conversely, the number of children fed exclusively by mouth increased from 18 to 30. Median SDS for weight decreased from -1.6 (-3.5-1.7) to -1.3 (-4.1-2.5). Twelve children had their treatment prematurely discontinued, e.g. due to laryngeal collapse/laryngomalacia. No patient died during treatment.
Conclusion: Treatment of UAO and feeding problems in these children with syndromic RS by a modified palatal plate with a velar extension was shown to be effective and safe. If confirmed in prospective studies, it may help to avoid more invasive interventions.
Keywords: Orthodontic treatment; Palatal plate; Syndromic Robin sequence; Upper airway obstruction.