Velopharyngeal closure analysis using four-dimensional computed tomography: A pilot study of healthy volunteers and adult patients with cleft palate

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Background: Nasopharyngoscopy is a common method to evaluate velopharyngeal closure in patients with cleft palate. However, insertion of a fiberoptic nasopharyngoscope causes discomfort in patients. The aim of this study was to estimate the reliability of short-time exposure images obtained using 320-row area detector computed tomography (320-ADCT) as a novel evaluation method for the assessment of velopharyngeal function. Methods: We evaluated five healthy adult volunteers and five postoperative adult patients with cleft palate. During a 3.3-s imaging exposure, the participants were asked to perform two tasks: nasal inspiration and subsequent oral expiration through a catheter into a water-filled cup. The movement of the velopharyngeal structures was recorded during each examination, and the presence of velopharyngeal insufficiency (VPI) and velopharyngeal closure (VPC) patterns were estimated. If VPI was detected, the cross-sectional area was also calculated. Cohen's kappa and weighted kappa coefficients were used to evaluate the concordance of nasopharyngoscopy and 320-ADCT evaluation. Results: Speech pathology evaluation did not reveal hypernasality in any study participant. Micro-VPI was detected by nasopharyngoscopy in one healthy volunteer and two patients. 320-ADCT detected micro-VPI in two more patients. The cross-sectional area of the VPI in these subjects ranged from 2.53 to 16.28 mm2. Nasopharyngoscopy and 320-ADCT were concordant in detecting VPI in eight participants (κ = 0.6) and in assessing VPC patterns in nine (κ = 0.82). Moreover, images obtained using 320-ADCT allowed for reduced dead angle and, thus, easy detection of micro-VPI and Passavant's ridges. Conclusion: Although the radiation exposure cannot be ignored, our novel evaluation method using 320-ADCT enables more detailed evaluation of VPC than nasopharyngoscopy. Future studies should investigate the relationship between 320-ADCT findings and speech pathology evaluations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number54
JournalBMC Medical Imaging
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 08-07-2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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