To investigate long-term, longitudinal speech outcome in patients born with unilateral cleft lip and palate treated according to a two-stage primary palatal protocol with early veloplasty and delayed hard palate closure.
Retrospective, longitudinal cohort study. Setting : A university hospital in western Sweden.
A consecutive series of 55 patients from the total cohort of 65 were included. All patients had surgical procedures at Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Gothenburg, Sweden.
Standardized audio recordings were blindly analyzed at 5, 7, 16, and 19 years of age and after at a clinical visit at 10 years of age. Typical cleft speech variables were rated independently on ordinal scales. Intelligibility and perceived velopharyngeal function were assessed also. Prevalences of speech characteristics were determined, and interrater and intrarater agreement were calculated. Results : Prominent hypernasality, nasal air leakage, and retracted oral articulation at 5 years were markedly reduced throughout the years with low prevalences at ages 16 and 19 years. Perceived velopharyngeal competence was noted in 82% at age 16 and 87% at age 19 years along with normal intelligibility. Pharyngeal flap surgery was performed in 6 of the 55 patients (11%).
Long-term speech outcome in patients with two-stage palatoplasty with early soft palate repair was considered good and improved even before hard palate repair. The typical retracted oral articulation was quite frequent during the early ages; whereas, nonoral misarticulations were almost nonexistent, implying good velopharyngeal competence.