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Research

Plastic Surgery Department

At Phoenix Children’s, our surgeons join colleagues across medical disciplines to advance care through research. Doctors study pediatric craniofacial defects and other congenital and acquired disorders that require plastic and reconstructive surgery. This includes hand and microvascular surgery, breast and chest wall development, as well as research in global and international health.

Robust research improves our understanding of disease processes and allows new discoveries. This work helps your child’s doctors to customize care with the best-available therapies.

Areas of Study

Research at Phoenix Children’s takes many forms. Studies range from scientific research and data analysis to clinical testing of the safest and most effective new therapies.

Areas of interest include disorders of the face, head, neck and other parts of the body. These conditions can distort a child’s appearance and restrict normal functions.

Examples of recent research include the use of dynamic magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to evaluate spot patterns and make structural and functional assessments of congenital anomalies. Other areas of study focus on the effectiveness of different surgical approaches to repair cleft palate.

Studies at Phoenix Children’s investigate promising developments for conditions such as:

  • Velopharyngeal insufficiency (VPI) – Surgeons at Phoenix Children’s are leading an NIH-funded international study to determine the best diagnostic methods and surgical procedures for the treatment of VPI, a speech problem in which structural problems in the throat lead to inappropriate air escape from the nose during speech.
  • Craniofacial anomalies – Doctors study differences of the face, head and neck, with an emphasis on congenital anomalies. Our teams investigate complex diagnoses, including craniosynostosis.
  • Cleft lip and palate – Problems during prenatal development can lead to incomplete formation of the lip and palate (roof of mouth). Our Surgeons and Speech Pathologists are actively involved in the Cleft Outcomes Research NETwork (CORNET), an NIH-Funded multi-center study to determine the best surgical approaches, feeding methods, and speech therapy approaches to help children with cleft lip and palate achieve the best possible treatment outcomes.
  • Traumatic injury – Accidental trauma to the face, head and neck or other parts of the body requires cross-specialty plastic and reconstructive surgery. Researchers advance ways to restore a child’s appearance and functions such as eating and speech. Multispecialty teams study every aspect of injury, including ways to improve recovery after craniofacial injuries.
  • Hand and Microvascular Reconstruction

Grants and Other Support

Funding from grants and other sources helps doctors at Phoenix Children’s to support the work of improving care and enhancing quality of life. Advanced areas of research receive grant funding from external sources, in addition to support from friends who give to Phoenix Children’s.

Our research is supported by leading national health institutes, including:

VPI Outcomes Prediction Study

VPI is structural defect of a valve in the back of the mouth. It’s often associated with cleft palate – a congenital condition where the roof of the mouth isn’t fully formed. This condition can affect a child’s throat and voice, and may interfere with speech, swallowing and other functions.

The VPI Outcomes Prediction Study (VPI-OPS) is an ongoing research program at Phoenix Children’s. Experts from multiple centers and specialties share and analyze data. Participating doctors evaluate and compare the effectiveness of different diagnostic and treatment methods.

The VPI study team includes surgeons, speech-language pathologists and researchers from hospitals and clinics across the U.S. and Canada.

The VPI Study Coordinating Center at Phoenix Children's Hospital is led by Thomas Sitzman, MD, MPH.

Learn more about our VPI research, including how to participate.

Research Publications

The plastic and reconstructive surgeons at Phoenix Children’s publish research findings in leading medical and scientific journals and publications. These include:

  • Craniofacial publications
  • VPI publications
  • Wound care publications
  • Hand and Microvascular surgery publications

Information for Patients and Study Participants

There are always new projects underway at Phoenix Children’s. Our clinical studies are a last step before new treatments become widely available. Eligible patients can try innovative therapies under safe, doctor-directed study guidelines and care.

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