Cleft Lip & Palate Repair

A cleft lip and palate are common birth defects that result in an incomplete upper lip and roof of the mouth. With early involvement, Dr. Carpenter can repair both a cleft lip and cleft palate with the treatment plan that will work best for your child. Not only is treatment essential to improving appearance, but it can also restore a child’s ability to speak, eat, and breathe normally.

What is a Cleft Lip and Palate?

A cleft refers to a separation of tissue in the upper lip or roof of the mouth. When a cleft lip is present, there is a notch from the lip to the base of the nose. A cleft palate can occur on one or both sides of the roof of the mouth and can be short or go the length of the palate. This is a birth defect that occurs during fetal development when the upper lip and palate do not form normally. The two defects can occur together or alone and range in severity.

Cleft Repair Surgery

Cleft lip repair usually takes place when the child is around three to six months of age. The child’s cleft surgery will be done under general anesthesia. In order to close a separation in the upper lip, incisions are made on both sides of the cleft, from the lip to the nostril, to create flaps that can then be stitched together. A cleft palate repair generally occurs around 9 to 18 months. For a palate, incisions are made on either side of the cleft and hard and soft tissue is repositioned to close the gap. This is often done using three layers of tissue from the nasal lining, muscle tissue, and the oral mucosa. During a cleft repair, some children also need a rhinoplasty or tip rhinoplasty procedure to improve a nasal deformity. This procedure opens the nose to improve the appearance and prevent a breathing obstruction. A tip rhinoplasty focuses on the tip off the nose to create better alignment and symmetry.

Recovery and Results

After a cleft repair, your child may be irritable and show mild discomfort. Arm restraints might be needed to prevent rubbing the incision sites. Stitches will dissolve on their own. Cleft repair can restore a child’s appearance and function of the upper lip and roof of the mouth. As the child grows, further surgery might be required for further repair. Treatment from a speech pathologist and dentist might also be required to further restore function and appearance. Scars will be concealed in the natural contours of the nose and lip and continue to fade overtime. Dr. Carpenter can examine your child’s cleft lip or palate to determine what the best course of treatment will be. To schedule a consultation or to learn more about cleft repair, contact our office today.