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Velopharyngeal Insufficiency

By

Alan G. Cheng

, MD, Stanford University

Last full review/revision May 2022| Content last modified May 2022
CLICK HERE FOR THE PROFESSIONAL VERSION

Velopharyngeal insufficiency is incomplete closure of the velopharyngeal sphincter between the oral and nasal cavities, causing a hypernasal voice.

The velopharyngeal sphincter (which includes the soft palate and the side and back walls of the throat) separates the oral and nasal cavities during swallowing and speech. During speech, air is directed through the mouth and not the nose. In velopharyngeal insufficiency, the seal is not complete, allowing air to leak through the nose causing a hypernasal resonant voice (sounding nasally).

Symptoms of velopharyngeal insufficiency include a hypernasal voice with an inability to form speech sounds correctly. Severe velopharyngeal insufficiency can cause solid foods and fluids to regurgitate through the nose.

Doctors suspect velopharyngeal insufficiency in people with the typical speech abnormalities. To confirm the diagnosis, doctors inspect the velopharyngeal sphincter with a fiberoptic nasoendoscope (a flexible tube passed through the nose) or x-rays taken while swallowing different foods (videofluoroscopy).

Treatment is with speech therapy and sometimes with a special device worn in the mouth or surgery.

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: CLICK HERE FOR THE PROFESSIONAL VERSION
CLICK HERE FOR THE PROFESSIONAL VERSION
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