BACKGROUND: The majority of patients with Pierre Robin sequence in the subdivision Fairbairn-Robin triad (FRT), are born with glossoptosis, retro-/micrognathia and cleft or agenesis of the
palate leading to feeding difficulties and airway obstruction. There is limited literature on these problems, and on methods used to address them.
OBJECTIVES: Community nurses in the Facial Cleft Deformity Clinic evaluate associated airway obstruction and feeding problems and devise nursing interactions to address these. This retrospective study examined the incidence of airway and feeding difficulties in the neonatal,
pre-surgical period, as well as the surgical and nutritional management of these infants.
METHOD: Retrospective records of 215 infants with FRT were examined and data on incidence,
airway and feeding difficulties and surgical and nutritional management was collected.
Descriptive statistics, including average and percentage values, were compiled.
RESULTS: The incidence of FRT amongst the cleft palate patients was 6.0%, with 37.7% of these
having feeding difficulties. However, surgical interventions such as glossopexy (5.6%),
distraction osteogenesis (0.9%) and tracheotomy (2.3%) for airway management were seldom
required. Most of the infants who had upper airway obstruction and feeding problems were
handled by means of suction and drinking plates, along with additional specific feeding aids.
This reduced airway obstruction in 70.6%, and feeding problems in 62.4% of these infants.
CONCLUSION: Based on this study’s finding the introduction of the suction and drinking plate
and the use of specific types of feeding devices and surgical management can improve growth
and development in infants with FRT.