Incidence and outcome of middle ear disease in cleft lip and/or cleft palate

Patrick Sheahan, Ian Miller, Jerome N Sheahan, Michael J Earley, Alexander W Blayney
International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology 2003, 67 (7): 785-93

OBJECTIVE: Otitis media with effusion is known to be very common among children with cleft palate, however, less is known regarding the natural history and outcome in this group. The purpose of the present study was to examine the incidence, natural history, treatment, and outcome of middle ear disease in children with clefts.

METHODS: A questionnaire was sent to the parents of all children registered on the cleft lip and palate database at our institution. The medical records of all respondents were also reviewed. Statistical analysis of the results was performed using Fisher's exact test in contingency tables and binary logistic regression analyses, where appropriate.

RESULTS: 397 fully completed questionnaires were returned. Ear disease was much more common in children with cleft palate, or cleft lip and palate, than in children with cleft lip. Among children with cleft palate, ear problems (infections and/or hearing loss) were most prevalent in the 4-6-year-old age group. However, ear problems persisted at a substantial level for many years after this; only after the age of 12 years did problems appear to settle. The incidence of below normal current hearing and of surgery for chronic otitis media was significantly related to history of ear infections (P=0.000 and 0.000, respectively), and to increased number of ventilation tube insertions (P=0.000 and 0.000, respectively).

CONCLUSIONS: Middle ear disease is common in children with cleft palate, and, unlike the case for children without clefts, has a prolonged recovery, and a substantial incidence of late sequelae. The higher incidence of below normal hearing and surgery for chronic otitis media in children undergoing a greater number of ventilation tube insertions, although most likely reflecting an increased underlying severity of otitis media in these children, also underlines the lack of long-term benefits of ventilation tubes in this group.

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