We propose a 5-year, prospective, randomized, blinded, controlled study that evaluates the comparative efficacies of 2 methods of palatoplasty with respect to improving Eustachian tube function (ETF) and reducing the prevalences of otitis media with effusion (OME) and hearing loss in cleft palate (CP) patients without causing adverse events or having detrimental effects on the other functions affected by the presence of a CP. The palatoplasties evaluated are the Furlow double opposing Z plasty with bilateral transaction of the tensor veli palatini muscle (mTVP) tendon (FP) and a modification of that procedure that includes bilateral tensor tenopexy (MFP), i.e. the attachment of mTVP tendons to the ipsilateral hamulus before mTVP tendon transection. Over a 4 year period, we will enroll 120 non-syndromic CP subjects by age 6 months who are classified as Veau I-IV. The surgical procedures will include cleft lip repair (if present) at 3-6 months of age, bilateral placement of a ventilation tube (VT) at 3-6 months of age, the designated palatoplasty at approximately 9-11 months of age and repeat bilateral VT insertions post-palatoplasty to study end as dictated by an algorithm based on middle ear (ME) status. Post-operative assessment of the ME status (otoscopy, tympanometry) will be done at regular intervals and at the 3-year endpoint with inclusion of ETF and hearing tests. Primary outcomes include ETF and the incidences and prevalences of OME and hearing loss after palatoplasty for those subjects who achieve the age of 3 years by the end of the 5 year study period. Secondary outcomes include measures that are assessed in CP children as part of their clinical follow-up;i.e. velopharyngeal competence, speech development and the need for revision palatoplasty. We compare these 2 palatoplasty procedures because of their expected differential effects only on mTVP function. Our expectations are that ETF will be better and the prevalences of OME and hearing loss less in the MFP group, but that the secondary outcome measures will not be different between the 2 groups at the 3 year endpoint. In 12 subjects/group, intra-operative recordings of ETF will be done during electrical stimulation of the left mTVP and left Levator Veli Palatini muscle (mLVP) before and then after each step in the procedures that involve manipulation of those muscles. We expect that the test results at different procedural steps will clarify the role played in ETF by these muscles in CP patients. In a competing renewal of this application, we plan to include similar assessments on all enrolled subjects to age 7 with additional outcome evaluations at age 4, 5, 6 and 7 years. Our sample size of 120 was chosen to allow for a drop-out of 25% by 7 years of age and, thus, to retain statistical power to test the various hypotheses. If the MFP proves to be better than the FP with respect to the primary outcomes at age 3 and later years and is not associated with adverse events or untoward effects on the other functions, these results will provide a foundation to argue for changing the way that current palatoplasties are done with a renewed emphasis on reducing the otologic complications of the CP condition.
The prevalence of OM and hearing loss in CP infants approaches 100%, does not decrease after standard methods of palatoplasty and is greater than that for than that for non-CP patients at all ages. This prospective, blinded, randomized study compares the efficacies of the more standard Furlow palatoplasty with a modification of that technique, Furlow palatoplasty with tensor tenopexy, which was designed to improve ETF and, consequently, promote the earlier resolution of OM and hearing loss in those patients. If the modified Furlow palatoplasty is shown to be superior to the standard Furlow palatoplasty with respect to improving ETF, ME status and hearing without adverse consequences on the other functions affected by the presence of a CP, application of this revised procedure is expected to improve the quality of life in CP patients and redirect the focus of CP surgeons to improve the otologic outcomes in these patients.