Tailored Posterior Pharyngeal Fat Grafting Outcomes in Velopharyngeal Insufficiency Managed According to a Simplified Algorithm

Ann Plast Surg. 2019 Aug;83(2):172-179. doi: 10.1097/SAP.0000000000001930.


Background: This study aimed to evaluate the outcomes of posterior pharyngeal fat grafting for the management of velopharyngeal insufficiency using a simplified therapeutic algorithm and a tailored surgical technique.

Methods: This was a prospective study of consecutive nonsyndromic patients with repaired cleft palate and velopharyngeal insufficiency who were stratified according to a simplified algorithm (minimally scarred palate, transverse orientation of levator veli palatini, and pinhole-to-small velopharyngeal gaps) and who underwent tailored posterior pharyngeal fat grafting. The patients were screened for obstructive sleep apnea before and after surgery. Three blinded evaluators randomly rated perceptual speech (hypernasality, audible nasal emission, and intraoral pressure) and nasoendoscopic (velopharyngeal active gap size) characteristics using audio and video recordings. Successful speech outcome was defined as normal or borderline sufficient velopharyngeal function at 15 months after surgery.

Results: All included patients (n = 96) presented with a preoperative and postoperative low risk of obstructive sleep apnea. At 15 months after surgery, hypernasality (0.26 ± 0.53), audible nasal emissions (0.29 ± 0.48), intraoral pressure (0.1 ± 0.31), and velopharyngeal closure size (1.86 ± 0.34) were significantly decreased (all, P < 0.05) compared with the corresponding preoperative measurements (hypernasality, 2.17 ± 0.75; audible nasal emissions, 1.89 ± 0.82; intraoral pressure, 0.85 ± 0.35; and velopharyngeal closure size, 0.2 ± 0.49). In total, 84 (87.5%) patients showed successful speech outcomes.

Conclusions: Tailored posterior pharyngeal fat grafting is an effective and safe surgical strategy for the management of velopharyngeal insufficiency in a selected cohort of patients with repaired cleft palate.

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / transplantation*
  • Algorithms
  • Child
  • Cleft Palate / surgery
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pharynx / surgery
  • Prospective Studies
  • Speech Intelligibility
  • Transplantation, Autologous
  • Velopharyngeal Insufficiency / surgery*