Cleft Lift and Palate
|Cleft Lift and Palate - What Are My Options?
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 600 children are born with a cleft lip, cleft palate or both. These statistics make this deformity one of the most common birth defects known thus far. In general a cleft lip and/or palate affects a person's ability to speak, feeding issues, hearing loss and chronic fluid in the middle ear. The only way to treat cleft lip and palate is with a series of surgeries that occur over a period of time.
How Cleft Lip and Palate Occurs
Cleft lip and palate occur while the baby is still in its mother's womb. The areas of a baby's face are made separately and in the end, are joined together. When the joining does not go as planned, creating a perfect section, a cleft is created. A cleft lip, which affects a child's appearance, can be as minimal as a small nodule in the lip to a complete slice that goes from the nose to the lip. In either instance, it is very obvious and can cause serious issues for a child's normal functioning. A cleft palate occurs when there is a split in the roof of your child's mouth, which can cause many issues with your child's development.
The Timing of the Procedures
Cleft lip is surgically repaired within the first few months of a baby's life, usually by 12 weeks of age. Sometimes this surgery needs to occur in two phases, but the first phase is always done by 3 months of age. Cleft palate surgery is a series of surgeries that will continue until your child is 18 years old with the first surgery occurring between 6 months and 12 months of age.
A Team Effort
Surgery for a cleft lip and palate takes an extensive team of experts to complete the work. The OMS plays a very important role as a large part of the process includes restoration of the jaw and facial structure in order to restore not only full function to your child's facial features, but also enhance his/her appearance. In addition to your OMS, the team of doctors might include a speech pathologist, otolaryngologist, psychologist and audiologist, among others.
The Surgical Process
Both cleft lip and cleft palate surgery require the use of general anesthesia. In cleft lip surgery, the tissues in the lip are trimmed and sewed together as they should have joined in the first place. The process is done with the goal of keeping scarring to an absolute minimum. The stitches that are used are always as small and as inconspicuous as possible to prevent further issues in the future. In cleft palate surgery, the process needs to be delayed a little bit in order to allow the palate to mature before covering it. Once your child's mouth is ready, we surgically remove tissue from the roof of the mouth and place it over the palate.
More Surgical Procedures
After the initial surgeries, additional surgeries might be necessary, depending on the severity of your child's cleft lip or palate. In some cases, bone grafting is necessary in order to give adequate strength to the jawline. In some cases, children need an additional surgery to help their speech or treat other developmental issues that might have occurred as a result of the cleft lip or palate.
The ultimate goal of cleft lip and palate surgery is to restore normal function to your child's jaw and face. The surgeries are meant to help eliminate developmental issues as well as help with a child's appearance. There are many factors that need to be considered with dealing with a cleft lip and palate, especially as the child gets older and has to endure emotional and/or social issues as a result. We do our best to help give your child the most successful treatment of the cleft lip and palate, to minimize psychological distress and developmental issues.
What to Expect after Cleft Lip and Palate Surgery
After palate surgery, it is very important that the instructions are followed to ensure the success of the procedure. It will be necessary for you to feed your child with a cup or spoon that allows you to place the food in his mouth without touching the roof of his mouth. It is also very important that your child never puts anything in his mouth during this initial period, which includes his fingers, pacifiers, or any other objects. After your child eats, it will be necessary for him to drink water to cleanse the surgical area.
In general, 1 out of 5 children that have cleft palate surgery experience a split in the surgical area which can cause a hole to form in the area between the nose and mouth. If the hole is small, minor leaking of fluids may occur, but if the hole is large, the issues could be severe, requiring your child to undergo another surgery to remove what is called a fistula.
If you have any questions regarding cleft lip and palate surgery, please feel free to contact Dr. Frishkey's office today.