Objective To investigate the association between velopharyngeal insufficiency (VPI), a common finding after cleft palate repair, and various risk factors, including cleft width.
Methods We performed a retrospective cohort study of patients with isolated cleft palates repaired from 2003 to 2008 at a tertiary children's hospital. Patients were observed postoperatively for development of VPI and palatal fistula. The primary risk factor was cleft width. Covariates included cleft length, age at surgery, and presence of associated syndrome. Logistic regression analysis was used to calculate adjusted and unadjusted odds ratios (ORs).
Results The cohort comprised 61 patients. Mean (SD) patient age at the time of cleft repair was 13 (3) months. Fistula rate was 3%. Overall rate of postoperative VPI was 32%. We found significant associations between VPI diagnosis and increasing age in months at the time of palate repair (OR, 1.4 [95% CI, 1.2-1.7]) and between VPI and cleft width greater than 10 mm (OR, 5.3 [95% CI, 1.8-15.6]). The association between VPI and cleft width was similar after adjustment for cleft length, patient age, and syndrome presence (OR, 4.5 [95% CI, 1.1-18.7]).
Conclusions Our results suggest that increased palatal cleft width is associated with a greater risk of postoperative VPI. Clinicians should consider this when counseling patient families for cleft palate repair.