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Velopharyngeal insufficiency (VPI) results from incomplete closure of the velopharyngeal (VP) sphincter with oral pressure consonants during speech. Maxillary hypoplasia is common among cleft children and often requires LeFort I advancement. This results in anterior movement of the soft palate with the bony maxillary segment. Consequently, the size of the VP sphincter is increased and may result postoperative VPI or worsening of prior VPI. To better counsel our patients and their families of the risk of VPI after LeFort I advancement, we chose to evaluate our own cohort.
We conducted an institutional review board–approved prospective review of all cleft children presenting to Texas Children’s Hospital who underwent LeFort I advancement after previous palatoplasty between 2013 and 2016 in a three-surgeon, consecutive patient series. Data collected included age, sex, ethnicity, cleft type, prior secondary speech surgery, presence of preoperative fistula, planned distance of advancement, orthognathic surgery performed, and any concurrent procedures performed. Primary outcomes measured included preoperative and postoperative VP function and hypernasality as measured by a certified speech pathologist.
Velopharyngeal function was unchanged in 67% of our cohort after LeFort I advancement. Of those patients, 83% had evidence of VPI preoperatively, and 17% had normal speech preoperatively. Twenty-two percent of the patients displayed worsening VP function after surgery, and 6% displayed evidence of improvement. Velopharyngeal function was unable to be assessed in 6% of patients. Nasality ratings worsened in 39% of patients, were unchanged in 39%, and improved in 22%. Of the patients with incompetent VP function after surgery, 50% already received or are currently scheduled for secondary speech surgery, 25% declined secondary surgery, and 25% are pending scheduling.
Although VP function remains unchanged in a majority of patients after LeFort I advancement, VPI should be carefully screened for after surgery. If detected, secondary operations to correct speech should be strongly considered.

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