Velopharyngeal incompetence following transoral robotic surgery for oropharyngeal carcinoma: A scoping review

Int J Speech Lang Pathol. 2023 Aug;25(4):540-548. doi: 10.1080/17549507.2022.2104927. Epub 2022 Aug 17.


Purpose: Following transoral robotic surgery (TORS) for oropharyngeal carcinoma (OPC), velopharyngeal incompetence (VPI) is a known consequence that may contribute to swallowing and speech disorders. As the incidence of OPC increases affecting a younger demographic, a better understanding of VPI is required to support speech and swallowing rehabilitation.

Method: A scoping review was conducted using Arskey & O'Malley's framework. Studies were identified from five databases between 2007 and 2020. The methodological quality was measured with the RevMan Risk of Bias Tool by two independent evaluators.

Result: A total of seven studies met the inclusion criterion. There was a combined total of 306 participants, their average age was 59.2 years. A high risk of bias and degree of heterogeneity across all seven cohort studies was observed. Validated and instrumental evaluations of VPI were present in two papers, with the majority only reporting the presence or absence of VPI. The incidence of VPI reported in each study ranged from 0 to 53%, (median 3.5%).

Conclusion: There are few high-quality studies and considerable heterogeneity in the terminology, inclusion criteria and measurement of VPI. Instrumentation, to date, has been rarely used but is necessary for a normed and validated approach to VPI. Based on this review, there is considerable need for larger studies which instrumentally and longitudinally assess VPI as a consequence of TORS, in order to guide patient education and management prior to, and following their surgery.

Keywords: Velopharyngeal Insufficiency (VPI); oropharyngeal carcinoma (OPC); speech; swallow; transoral robotic surgery (TORS).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Robotic Surgical Procedures* / adverse effects
  • Speech
  • Speech Disorders
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Velopharyngeal Insufficiency* / etiology
  • Velopharyngeal Insufficiency* / surgery