Cleft Lip & Palate Repair

Cleft lip and cleft palate repair is surgery to fix birth defects of the upper lip and palate (roof of the mouth).

A cleft lip is a birth defect:

  • A cleft lip may be just a small notch in the lip. It may also be a complete split in the lip that goes all the way to the base of the nose.
  • A cleft palate can be on one or both sides of the roof of the mouth. It may go the full length of the palate.
  • Your child may have one or both of these conditions at birth.

Most times, cleft lip repair is done when the child is 6 to 12 weeks old.

For cleft lip surgery, your child will have general anesthesia (asleep and not feeling pain). The surgeon will trim the tissues and sew the lip together. The stitches will be very small so that the scar is as small as possible. Most of the stitches will absorb into the tissue as the scar heals, so they will not have to be removed later.

Most times, cleft palate repair is done when the child is older, between 9 months and 1 year old. This allows the palate to change as the baby grows. Doing the repair when the child is this age will help prevent further speech problems as the child develops.

In cleft palate repair, your child will have general anesthesia (asleep and not feeling pain). Tissue from the roof of the mouth may be moved over to cover the soft palate. Sometimes a child will need more than one surgery to close the palate.

During these procedures, the surgeon may also need to repair the tip of your child’s nose. This surgery is called rhinoplasty.

Why the Procedure is Performed

This type of surgery is done to correct a physical defect caused by a cleft lip or cleft palate. It is important to correct these conditions when they cause problems with nursing, feeding, or speech.

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