Cleft Lip and Palate
A child born with a separation in the upper lip is said to have a cleft lip. A similar birth defect in the roof of the mouth, or palate, is called a cleft palate. Since the lip and the palate develop separately, it is possible for a child to have a cleft lip, a cleft palate, or variations of both, all of them with some deformity of the nose.
If your child was born with either or both of these conditions, your doctor will probably recommend surgery to repair it. Medical professionals have made great advances in treating children with clefts, and can do a lot to help your child lead a normal, healthy, happy life.
It is important to repair the opening, as these children may have problems with their feeding and their teeth, their hearing, their speech, and their psychological development as they grow up if left untreated. For that reason, parents should seek the help of a Cleft Lip and Palate Team as early as possible. Medical professionals with special experience in the problems of cleft lip and palate have formed such teams all over the country to help parents plan for their child's care from birth, or even before. Typically, a Cleft Team might include a plastic surgeon, a pediatrician, a dentist, a speech and language specialist, a social worker, a hearing specialist, an ear-nose-throat specialist, a psychologist, a nurse, and a genetic counselor. In cleft lip surgery, the most common problem is asymmetry, when one side of the mouth and nose does not match the other side. The goal of cleft lip surgery is to close the separation of the palate in the first operation, after that, more operations are needed.
To repair a cleft lip, the surgeon will make an incision on either side of the cleft from the mouth into the nostril. He or she will then turn the dark pink outer portion of the cleft down and pull the muscle and the skin of the lip together to close the separation. Muscle function and the normal "cupid's bow" shape of the mouth are restored. The nostril deformity often associated with cleft lip may also be improved at the time of lip repair or in a later surgery.
In some children, a cleft palate may involve only a tiny portion at the back of the roof of the mouth; for others, it can mean a complete separation that extends from front to back. Just as in cleft lip, cleft palate may appear on one or both sides of the upper mouth. However, repairing a cleft palate involves more extensive surgery and is usually done when the child is nine to 18 months old, so the baby is bigger and better able to tolerate surgery.
To repair a cleft palate, the surgeon will make an incision on both sides of the separation, moving tissue from each side of the cleft to the center or midline of the roof of the mouth. This rebuilds the palate, joining muscle together and providing enough length in the palate so the child can eat and learn to speak properly.
For a day or two, your child will probably feel some soreness and pain, which is easily controlled with medication. During this period, you child will not eat or drink as much as usual -- so an intravenous line will be used to maintain fluid levels. Elbow restraints may be used to prevent your baby from rubbing the repaired area. Your doctor will advise you on how to feed your child during the first few weeks after surgery. It's crucial that you follow your doctor's advice on feeding to allow the palate to heal properly.
The nose is repaired during the palate surgery.
|Length of procedure:||1-2 hours|
|Type of anesthesia:||General or local|
|Hospital stay:||1-2 nights|
|Post-operatory stay in Costa Rica:||2 weeks|
Cleft Lip Surgery
A cleft lip is a separation of the upper lip that can extend into the nose.
To repair a cleft lip, the surgeon will first make an incision on each side of the cleft from the lip to the nostril.
The cleft lip is then drawn together and stitched to create a normal "cupid's bow" shape to the upper lip.
The scar left after surgery will gradually fade with time.