Cleft Lip & Cleft Palate
A cleft lip is a birth defect of the lip, and a cleft palate is a birth defect of the roof of the mouth. Besides causing disfigurement, these birth defects can sometimes cause problems with eating and breast feeding. Since they are birth defects, corrective surgery is generally performed on young children to restore function and a normal appearance to the face. Cleft lip and/or cleft palate can make a child more susceptible to colds, ear infections, speech problems, and cavities.
Who Can Benefit From Cleft Lip/Cleft Palate Repair?
If your child has a cleft lip and/or cleft palate, he or she may be an excellent candidate for repair surgery. Cleft lip repair can potentially be performed as early as six weeks, while cleft palate repair is usually postponed until your child is at least nine months old. Adults with deformities of the lip and/or palate may benefit from surgery as well.
What is the Procedure Like?
Cleft lip/cleft palate repair surgery is performed in a hospital, and your child will be asleep under general anesthesia. In the majority of cases, only one surgery is necessary to correct the problem, but in some cases, more than one surgery may be required.
Your child may spend the first night after surgery in the hospital. In some cases, the patient is discharged on the day of surgery. If a second surgery is required, it will not be scheduled until at least six months after the first surgery.
Your child's comfort before, during, and after the surgery is paramount, and safe pain medication and antibiotics will be administered. The doctor will do everything possible to minimize scarring. Incisions for cleft palate surgery are made inside the mouth. Sometimes, children have subsequent procedures in their teens to further reduce the appearance of cleft lip surgery scars. An orthodontist may also be required to fix your child's teeth, and some children require speech therapy to help them learn to speak properly after surgery. These sessions are usually fun for babies and give them a jumpstart in developing their speech abilities.
What Can I Expect During Recovery?
Your child will gradually feel better during the healing process, which usually takes about a month. You will be given a safe pain medication for your child, and you may also be given a prescription for an antibiotic. The doctor will monitor your child's progress during follow-up visits, and you will be given detailed instructions about what to expect. You will also be told how to wash and care for your child and what is safe for your child to eat during the healing process.
What Are the Risks of Cleft Lip/Cleft Palate Repair?
Cleft lip and cleft palate repair are very safe surgeries, but there are always risks with any surgery. In rare instances, infection or breathing problems can occur, both of which can be treated.