Pierre Robin syndrome

Pierre Robin syndrome also known as Pierre Robin sequencePierre Robin malformationPierre Robin anomaly or Pierre Robin anomalad) is a congenital condition of facial abnormalities in humans. Pierre Robin sequence may be caused by genetic anomalies. PRS is characterized by an unusually small mandible, posterior displacement or retraction of the tongue (glossoptoris), and upper air way obstruction. Incomplete closure of the roof of the mouth (cleft of mouth) is present in the majority of patients, and is commonly U-shaped.

The syndrome is generally diagnosed clinically shortly after birth. The infant usually has respiratory difficulty, especially when supine. The cleft palate is often U-shaped and wider than in cleft palate that is not associated with this syndrome.

The goals of treatment in infants with Robin sequence focus upon breathing and feeding, and optimizing growth and nutrition despite the predisposition for breathing difficulties. If there is evidence of airway obstruction (snorty breathing, apnea, difficulty taking a breath, or drops in oxygen), then the infant should be placed in the prone position, which helps bring the tongue base forward in many children.

Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) seems to be more prevalent in children with Robin sequence (Because reflux of acidic contents in the posterior pharynx and upper airway can intensify the symptoms of Robin sequence, specifically by worsening airway obstruction, it is important to maximize treatment for GER in children with PRS and reflux symptoms. Treatment may include upright positioning on a wedge (a tucker sling may be needed if the baby is in the prone position), small and frequent feedings (to minimize vomiting), and/or pharmacotherapy (such as proton pump inhibitors).

In nasopharyngeal cannulation (or placement of the nasopharyngeal airway or tube), the infant is fitted with a blunt-tipped length of surgical tubing (or an endotracheal tube fitted to the child), which is placed under direct visualization with a laryngoscope, being inserted into the nose and down the pharynx (or throat), ending just above the vocal cords. Surgical threads fitted through holes in the outside end of the tube are attached to the cheek with a special skin-like adhesive material called ‘stomahesive’, which is also wrapped around the outside end of the tube (but not over the opening at the end) to keep the tube in place. This tube or cannula, which itself acts as an airway, primarily acts as a sort of “splint” which maintains patency of the airway by keeping the tongue form falling back on the posterior pharyngeal wall and occluding the airway, therefore preventing airway obstruction, hypoxia and asphyxia.

The cleft palate is generally repaired between the ages of 6½ months and 2 years by a plastic surgeon, an oromaxillofacial surgeon, or an otorhinolaryngologist (ENT surgeon). In many centres there is now a cleft lip and palate team comprising these specialties, as well as a coordinator, a speech and language therapist, an orthodontist, sometimes a psychologist or other mental health specialist, an audiologist, and nursing staff.

The glossoptosis and micrognathism generally do not require surgery, as they improve to some extent unaided, though the mandibular arch remains significantly smaller than average. In some cases jaw distraction is needed to aid in breathing and feeding. 

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