Laryngeal cleft: A literature review

Vishnu V Martha, Swetha Vontela, Alyssa N Calder, Rohit R Martha, Robert T Sataloff
American Journal of Otolaryngology 2021 April 20, 42 (6): 103072

INTRODUCTION: Laryngeal cleft is a congenital condition in which an opening in the posterior laryngotracheal wall allows food and liquid to pass from the esophageal lumen to the airway and causes aspiration. The severity of a laryngeal cleft is measured using the Benjamin-Inglis system, and can be managed conservatively or with a variety of surgical options With increased awareness, higher suspicion among primary physicians, advanced technology and improved intensive neonatal care services, more babies with laryngeal clefts survive in the modern era. Therefore, the focus has shifted from infant survival to treatment of laryngeal clefts and the challenging, complex medical conditions they create.

OBJECTIVE: To understand current laryngeal cleft management and post-operative outcomes.

METHODS: Literature review of laryngeal cleft studies from 2010 to 2021.

RESULTS: A total of 1033 patients were included. Based on 415 cases for whom sufficient classification data were available, the predominate symptom for patients with type I, III, and IV clefts is swallowing dysfunction, while the predominant symptoms for patients with type II clefts are stridor and aspiration. A wide variety of comorbidities involving several major organs has been reported with laryngeal clefts, which tend to impact clinical outcomes negatively. Approximately 19% of type I clefts have been treated conservatively successfully, but the majority was treated surgically. Most studies that used injection laryngoplasty for type I clefts reported highly successful repairs without complications or delays in additional procedures. Ninety-eight percent all type II clefts were treated with endoscopic repair; 87% of patients with type III clefts received endoscopic repair; and 66% of patients with type IV clefts underwent open surgery. Approximately 62% of resolved cases were reported within 12 months, while 50.87% of failed cases were reported within 6 weeks.

CONCLUSIONS: There are multiple treatment approaches, each of which may be applicable depending on factors such as laryngeal cleft type, severity of presentation, and comorbidities. Conservative approaches appear to be most useful for type I clefts or in patients with mild symptoms, while surgical management can be considered for any type of laryngeal cleft. The benefit of injection laryngoplasty, endoscopic repair and open surgery can also vary, but injection laryngoplasty and endoscopic repair are used most commonly. Open surgery should be to be considered if patients present with severe cleft types or if it is unsafe to perform other surgical techniques. Familiarity with this literature review should help clinicians understand clinical characteristics, direct medical management, and guide successful resolution of laryngeal clefts.

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