Cleft Lip and Palate Reconstruction

Cleft Lip and Palate Reconstruction

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.

Surgery to repair a cleft of any kind is a highly individualized procedure that’s intended to not only close the defect, but also to insure your child’s ability to function and grow normally.

Be prepared to discuss:

  • Your concerns and an evaluation of your child’s condition
  • Options available for cleft lip and/or cleft palate repair
  • Likely outcomes of surgery and the potential risks and complications associated with the procedure
  • A recommended course of treatment

The success of your child’s procedure, safety and overall satisfaction requires that you:

  • Honestly share your concerns
  • Fully disclose your child’s health history including current medications, vitamins, and herbal supplements
  • Commit to precisely following all of your plastic surgeon’s instructions

During The Surgery

Medications are administered for your child’s comfort during the surgical procedures. (Lip )Incisions are made on either side of the cleft to create flaps of tissue that are then drawn together and stitched to close the cleft. (Palate) Incisions are made on either side of the cleft and specialized flap techniques are used to reposition muscle and the hard and soft components of the palate. The repair is then stitched closed, generally at the midline of the roof of the mouth, providing enough length of the palate to allow for normal feeding and speech development, and continued growth throughout life. Cleft lip and palate incisions can be closed with removable or absorbable sutures. The resulting external scars of cleft repair are generally positioned in the normal contours of the upper lip and nose. Over time, these will fade and your child’s ability to grow and function normally will continue to improve.

The outcome of your child’s initial cleft lip and/or cleft palate repair will make a vast difference in his or her quality of life, ability to breathe, eat and speak. However, secondary procedures may be needed for functional reasons or to refine appearance. Even though the scars of cleft lip repair are generally located within the normal contours of the face, they will always be visible.