Cleft and craniofacial care during military pediatric plastic surgery humanitarian missions

Christopher Madsen, Denver Lough, Alan Lim, Raymond J. Harshbarger, Anand R. Kumar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Background: Military pediatric plastic surgery humanitarian missions in the Western Hemisphere have been initiated and developed since the early 1990 s using the Medical Readiness Education and Training Exercise (MEDRETE) concept. Despite its initial training mission status, the MEDRETE has developed into the most common and advanced low level medical mission platform currently in use. The objective of this study is to report cleft-and craniofacialrelated patient outcomes after initiation and evolution of a standardized treatment protocol highlighting lessons learned which apply to civilian plastic surgery missions. Methods: A review of the MEDRETE database for pediatric plastic surgery/cleft and craniofacial missions to the Dominican Republic from 2005 to 2009 was performed. A multidisciplinary team including a craniofacial surgeon evaluated all patients with a cleft/ craniofacial and/or pediatric plastic condition. A standardized mission time line included predeployment site survey and predeployment checklist, operational brief, and postdeployment after action report. Deployment data collection, remote patient follow-up, and coordination with larger land/amphibious military operations was used to increase patient follow-up data. Data collected included sex, age, diagnosis, date and type of procedure, surgical outcomes including speech scores, surgical morbidity, and mortality. Results: Five hundred ninety-four patients with cleft/craniofacial abnormalities were screened by a multidisciplinary team including craniofacial surgeons over 4 years. Two hundred twenty-Three patients underwent 330 surgical procedures (cleft lip, 53; cleft palate, 73; revision cleft lip/nose, 73; rhinoplasty, 15; speech surgery, 24; orthognathic/distraction, 21; general pediatric plastic surgery, 58; fistula repair, 12). Average follow-up was 30 months (range, 1-60). The complication rate was 6% (n=13) (palate fistula, lip revision, dental/alveolar loss, revision speech surgery rate). The average pre-surgical (Pittsburgh Weighted Speech Score) speech score was 12 (range, 6-24). The average postsurgical speech score was 6 (range, 0-21). Average hospital stay was 3 days for cleft surgery. There were no major complications or mortality, 1 reoperation for bleeding or infection, and 12 patients required secondary operations for palatal fistula, unsatisfactory aesthetic result, malocclusion, or velopharygeal dysfunction. Conclusions: Military pediatric plastic surgery humanitarian missions can be executed with similar home institution results after the initiation and evolution of a standardized approach to humanitarian missions. The incorporation of a dedicated logistics support unit, a dedicated operational specialist (senior noncommissioned officer), a speech language pathologist, remote internet follow up, an liaison officer (host nation liaison physician participation), host nation surgical resident participation, and support from the embassy, Military Advisory Attachment Group, and United States Aid and International Development facilitated patient accurate patient evaluation and posttreatment follow-up. Movement of the mission site from a remote more austere environment to a centralized better equipped facility with host nation support to transport patients to the site facilitated improved patient safety and outcomes despite increasing the complexity of surgery performed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1097-1101
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Craniofacial Surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2015


  • Cleft Lip
  • Cleft Palate
  • Military Humanitarian Mission
  • Operational medicine
  • Orthognathic Surgery
  • Pediatric Plastic Surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Otorhinolaryngology


Dive into the research topics of 'Cleft and craniofacial care during military pediatric plastic surgery humanitarian missions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this