Autologous fat transplantation to the velopharynx for treating mild velopharyngeal insufficiency: A 10-year experience.


Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Oslo University Hospital, Postboks 4950 Nydalen, 0424 Oslo, Norway; Institute of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oslo, Norway. Electronic address: [Email]


BACKGROUND : For the last two decades, autologous fat transplantation has been used to treat mild velopharyngeal insufficiency (VPI); however, there is still disagreement about its effectiveness. The aim of the study was to evaluate the procedure by using speech analysis and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
METHODS : This is a prospective study of 47 non-syndromic patients with mild VPI who underwent autologous fat transplantation to the velopharynx between 2006 and 2015. Thirty-two patients had a cleft palate, all of which had been repaired before fat transplantation. Eight patients developed VPI after adenotonsillectomy, one after uvulo-palatoplasty and six had VPI of unknown etiology. Twelve patients underwent two procedures of fat transplantation. Preoperative and 1-year postoperative audio recordings were blinded for scoring independently by three senior speech therapists on a five-point scale. Preoperative and 1-year postoperative MRIs were obtained during phonation, measuring the velopharyngeal distance and the velopharyngeal gap area. Correlations between the speech outcomes and MRI were calculated.
RESULTS : Audible nasal emission was the only speech parameter that improved significantly postoperatively (p = 0.005). A significant reduction in both velopharyngeal distance (p < 0.005) and the gap area (p < 0.005) was found after treatment. A significant improvement in the mobility of the velum was observed after treatment (p = 0.03). There was no significant correlation between speech outcomes and MRI.
CONCLUSIONS : Autologous fat transplantation for the treatment of mild VPI, although significantly reducing audible nasal emission, made no significant improvement in hypernasality or nasal turbulence. No complications were observed.


Cleft palate,Fat transplantation,MRI,Perceptual speech evaluation,Velopharyngeal insufficiency,