To assess the role of video endoscopy in evaluating velopharyngeal incompetence and investigate a possible relationship between velopharyngeal incompetence type and speech defect in cleft palate patients.
A prospective study of 28 pre- or post-operative cleft palate patients with speech defects who attended Plastic Surgery–Cleft Palate and ENT out-patient clinics was performed. The velar defect type was determined using a flexible endoscope and findings were video recorded. Speech pathology was assessed using the cleft palate audit protocol for speech.
A significant, clinically relevant relationship was noted between the perceived characteristics of hypernasality and velopharyngeal insufficiency type. Hypernasal speech was a definite clinical indicator of velopharyngeal incompetence, and the type 1 velopharyngeal defect was most common. Type 1 velopharyngeal coronal-type dysfunction was strongly associated with hypernasality (p < 0.05). When speech substitution was noted, type 2 velopharyngeal (or sagittal) incompetence could be predicted (p < 0.05).
In the management of cleft palate patients, it is important that surgical correction of the defect and achieving velopharyngeal competency for speech are performed simultaneously. Pre-operative velopharyngeal endoscopy with speech assessment will define the anatomical and functional bases for velopharyngeal correction and assist in planning and tailoring the pharyngeal flap.