Those of us in practice who follow children with cleft palates know how important it is to coordinate all aspects with appropriate craniofacial specialists in the diagnosis and repair of these facial abnormalities. But did you ever think about the academic outcomes of these patients that could be associated with where the cleft is located? Gallagher et al. (10.1542/peds.2016-2662) opted to look into this question by looking at academic performance relative to the laterality of a cleft, knowing that prior studies show a prevalence of left-sided clefts being more frequent than right-sided clefts.
The authors studied 292 children with an isolated unilateral cleft lip with or without a cleft palate in Iowa and matched them with 908 control patients. The cases and controls were then studied academically using standardized test data on multiple academic domains and to see whether these children were in special education. The results surprised us and perhaps the same will be true for you in that while right –sided clefts achieved academically similar results to controls, left sided cleft patients had difficulties in all evaluated academic domains and needed special education services more frequently than the right sided cleft patients or the control population.
Why might this association be occurring? We will defer to the discussion section of this paper and allow the authors to share their thoughts regarding the mechanism underlying the findings seen in this study. Have you noticed similar differences in your own patients with clefts? Share your thoughts with us by responding to this blog, replying with the article on our website or posting on our Facebook or Twitter pages.