Los Angeles, Calif
Defects of the soft palate resulting from head and neck oncologic surgery traditionally have been rehabilitated using a prosthetic obturator. In general, the results of soft palate obturation have been satisfactory, with most patients achieving velopharyngeal competence during speech and swallowing. However, soft palate obturators have several disadvantages. Device stability and retention are impaired in patients who are edentulous. In addition, prosthetic obturators cover large areas of sensate mucosa in the hard palate, maxillary alveolus, and oropharynx, contributing significantly to the loss of sensory feedback from the oral cavity and oropharynx. Considerable evidence suggests that sensory impairment within the oral cavity and pharynx results in impaired mastication, deglutition, and articulation.1-3 A minority of patients find palatal obturators to be unsatisfactory, secondary to either inconvenience or device discomfort.
Lacombe V, Blackwell KE. Radial Forearm Free Flap for Soft Palate Reconstruction. Arch Facial Plast Surg. 1999;1(2):130-132. doi:10.1001/archfaci.1.2.130