Velopharyngeal insufficiency in patients without a cleft palate: important considerations for the ENT surgeon

J Laryngol Otol. 2020 Mar;134(3):252-255. doi: 10.1017/S002221512000047X. Epub 2020 Mar 6.


Background: Velopharyngeal insufficiency is the inability to close the velopharyngeal port during speech and swallowing, leading to hypernasal speech and food regurgitation.

Objective: This study aimed to explore the aetiological factors contributing to the development of velopharyngeal insufficiency in a non-cleft paediatric population, especially following adenoidectomy.

Methods: A retrospective case review was conducted of all children without a known cleft palate, born between 2000 and 2013, who were referred to a tertiary cleft centre with possible velopharyngeal insufficiency.

Results: The data for 139 children diagnosed with velopharyngeal insufficiency following referral to the cleft centre were analysed. Thirteen patients developed the condition following adenoidectomy; only 3 of these 13 had a contributing aetiological factor.

Conclusion: Velopharyngeal insufficiency is a rare but significant complication of adenoidectomy. The majority of patients who developed velopharyngeal insufficiency following adenoidectomy did not have an identifiable predisposing factor. This has important implications for the consent process and when planning adenoidectomy.

Keywords: Adenoidectomy; Informed Consent; Submucous Cleft Palate; Velopharyngeal Insufficiency.

MeSH terms

  • Adenoidectomy / adverse effects*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Deglutition
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology*
  • Postoperative Complications / physiopathology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Speech
  • Velopharyngeal Insufficiency / etiology*
  • Velopharyngeal Insufficiency / physiopathology