Dr. Shelagh Cofer and pediatric otolaryngology patient

The Division of Pediatric Otolaryngology advances complex specialty care for Mayo Clinic's youngest patients.

Pediatric Otolaryngology

The Mayo Clinic Department of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery's Division of Pediatric Otolaryngology works to provide cutting-edge care for pediatric patients, with multidisciplinary team members including:

  • Gastroenterologists
  • Geneticists
  • Maternal-fetal medicine specialists
  • Neonatologists
  • Pediatric anesthesiologists
  • Pediatric pulmonologists

Researchers in the division are establishing best-practice guidelines for children with complex aerodigestive and congenital hearing problems, finding novel solutions for complex and rare problems in utero, and actively participating in fetal surgery and ex utero intrapartum treatment (EXIT) procedures.

The division has an active multidisciplinary velopharyngeal insufficiency clinic, craniofacial clinic and aerodigestive clinic, all of which offer unique opportunities to study rare disease, innovative team-based treatments and excellent clinical outcomes for Mayo Clinic's complex pediatric patient population.

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Global medicine

Mayo Clinic strives to provide care to all those in need. The Division of Pediatric Otolaryngology has developed global partnerships, starting in Ethiopia, to help deliver care through clinical practice and education. By integrating with countries where people have unmet needs for head and neck surgery, clinician-investigators are discovering which diseases are currently undertreated and how to help local physicians increase access to care.

This experience has also uncovered rare disease processes not commonly seen in the United States. By studying these rare diseases, along with gaps in access and clinical capabilities, Mayo Clinic otolaryngology researchers aim to help shape medical education and elevate the level of care that can be provided worldwide.

The Department of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery aims to expand access and quality of care by using established international communities and resources. Clinicians and investigators participate in bidirectional education with the goal of sharing the expertise learned in international settings and creating the best treatment protocols.

Velopharyngeal insufficiency and cleft lip and palate

Examination of pediatric patient

The inadequate closing of the velopharyngeal sphincter (velopharyngeal insufficiency), which is often due to a congenital abnormality, can result in problems such as hypernasal speech or regurgitation of fluids through the nose when swallowing. Treatment options for velopharyngeal insufficiency include various surgical techniques or the use of injectable filler.

The Division of Pediatric Otolaryngology's database of patients seen in Mayo's velopharyngeal insufficiency clinic allows investigators to compare outcomes, such as voice and perceptual analysis, between children who have undergone surgery and those receiving injectable filler.

Other projects on velopharyngeal insufficiency include investigation of the use of intranasal flaps to augment surgical repair of oronasal fistulas, research into the impact of hyperbaric oxygen therapy on wound healing in the palate and cutting-edge studies of the repair of fetal cleft lip.

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Aerodigestive tract disorders

3D model of aerodigestive tract

Proper neurological and anatomical development of the upper aerodigestive tract is essential for normal feeding and breathing. The Division of Pediatric Otolaryngology's research into disorders of the upper aerodigestive tract includes:

  • Collaboration among aerodigestive team members to evaluate this patient population by establishing a national registry, best-practice guidelines and outcomes reporting
  • Ongoing studies to better understand the health needs and challenges of children with pediatric feeding disorders who also have aerodigestive diagnoses, with the goal of enhancing outcomes such as improved growth and feeding and decreased aspiration

Otitis media and adenotonsillar disease

Dr. Laura Orvidas examines pediatric patient

The division's research into middle ear infections (otitis media) and adenotonsillar disease include:

  • A device trial using a single-pass tool to place tympanostomy tubes with moderate sedation
  • A device trial using a single-pass tool to place tympanostomy tubes with topical anesthesia in awake children in the clinic setting
  • Evaluation of postoperative care of children under age 5 undergoing tonsillectomy and use of rectally administrated pain medication to reduce emergency room visits and admissions for dehydration
  • Evaluation of surgical treatment of obstructive sleep apnea in children with trisomy 21 (Down syndrome)