Home >> Cleft Lip/Palate Surgery
Cleft Lip and Cleft PalateReconstructive plastic surgery for a cleft lip and or cleft palate is usually performed within the first year to year and a half after the birth of the affected child. However, it is important to note that most children who have a cleft lip and palate will require additional surgeries throughout adolescence and even into adulthood to continue to improve the overall function of the areas affected. The birth defect (approximately 1/700 children are born with cleft lip and palate), is one of the most common birth defects affecting children in America. A cleft lip and palate can affect how the child eats, speaks, hears and even breathes. Surgery performed by a board certified plastic surgeon is usually effective in repairing the clefts and will lead the child to a more normal life in both appearance and function.
Cleft LipMerriam-Webster defines a cleft as "a space or opening made by or as if by splitting", which is how cleft lip gets its name. A cleft lip is when there is a failure of the natural tissues surrounding the upper lip and nasal area to form together leaving a gap or a cleft. This separation can often extend beyond the nose and into the upper gums or even the jaw.
Cleft PalateThe cleft palate is similar to the cleft lip in that it too is a birth defect that causes a gap or fissure to occur in the affected child. The cleft palate affects the roof of the mouth as opposed to the lip and nasal area. A cleft palate can involve both the hard palate and the soft palate on the roof of the mouth.
Reconstructive Plastic Surgery for Cleft Lip and PalateThe initial surgery for cleft lip and palate takes place soon after the child’s birth usually within 6 months. Incisions are made to either side of the cleft(s), the tissue and or muscles are pulled together to close the cleft and then stitched together. The stitches are most likely to be absorbable although in certain cases the plastic surgeon may apply removable stitches. The resulting scars of the surgery tend to become less visible as time goes on. Constant monitoring is required as the child grows older to make sure their overall functioning continues to improve.
Other Specialist to Consider When Having Cleft Lip and Palate Surgery
- Otolaryngologist (Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist)
- Speech Therapist
- Hearing Specialist