Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate SurgeryCorrect Abnormal Development
Cleft lip and cleft palate repair is a type of plastic surgery to correct abnormal development both to restore function and to restore a more normal appearance.
Your child’s cleft lip and palate repair
Cleft lip (cheiloschisis) and cleft palate (palatoschisis) are among the most common birth defects affecting children in North America.
The incomplete formation of the upper lip (cleft lip) or roof of the mouth (cleft palate) can occur individually, or both defects may occur together. The conditions can vary in severity and may involve one or both sides of the face.
A cleft, or separation of the upper lip and/or the roof of the mouth, occurs very early in the development of your unborn child. During fetal development, certain components of the upper lip and roof of the mouth fail to form normally. Cleft lip and cleft palate repair is a type of plastic surgery to correct this abnormal development both to restore function and to restore a more normal appearance.
Most clefts can be repaired through specialized plastic surgery techniques, improving your child’s ability to eat, speak, hear and breathe, and to restore a more normal appearance and function.
A team of specialists can help
Early intervention by a team of specialists to evaluate your child is essential in cleft lip and/or cleft palate repair. The team can work together to deﬁne a course of treatment, including surgical repair of the cleft, speech rehabilitation and dental restoration. These specialists may include a:
- Plastic surgeon
- Pediatric dentist
- Otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat specialist)
- Auditory or hearing specialist
- Speech pathologist
- Genetic counselor
- Social worker
Cleft repair surgery risks and safety information
The decision to have cleft surgery is extremely personal and your plastic surgeon will explain the beneﬁts, goals and potential risks or complications. Your plastic surgeon and/or staff will explain in detail the risks associated with surgery. You will be asked to sign consent forms to ensure that you fully understand the procedure, the alternatives and the most likely risks or potential complications.
Some of the risks include:
- Bleeding (hematoma)
- Poor healing of incisions
- Irregular healing of scars including contracture (puckering or pulling together of tissues)
- Residual irregularities and asymmetries
- Anesthesia risks
- Allergies to tape, suture materials and glues, blood products, topical preparations or injected agents
- Damage to deeper structures — such as nerves, blood vessels, muscles, and lungs — can occur and may be temporary or permanent
- Possibility of revisional surgery
Be sure to ask questions: It’s natural to feel some anxiety, whether excitement for the anticipated outcomes for your child or preoperative stress. Please discuss these feelings with your plastic surgeon
Preparing for surgery
Prior to surgery, your plastic surgeon will discuss with you:
- Pre-surgical considerations, diagnostic testing and medications
- Day-of-surgery instructions and medications
- Specific information related to the use of anesthesia
- Postoperative care and follow-up
Your plastic surgeon will also discuss where your child’s procedure will be performed. Cleft repair is generally performed in a hospital setting.
Prior to surgery: In some cases, your child may be given an intraoral (inside the mouth) device, called an obturator, to wear prior to repair of the cleft lip which may assist in feeding and maintain the arch of the lip prior to repair.
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