Since children undergo cleft lip and palate surgery in the very early time of their lives (3-6 months for cleft lip and 6-12 months for cleft palate union the responsibility for preparation is on their parents. However, surgery is not very complicated to make a major preparation. Firstly, since the children should not be ill during the procedure, parents need to pay extra attention to their health, especially in the weeks before cleft lip and palate surgery. Secondly, the children should neither drink nor eat before the cleft lip and palate repair.
How It Is Performed
There are two types of cleft lip repair surgery:
• Cleft Lip Surgery – In cleft lip repair, the surgeon performs a series of cuts alongside the cleft, and then stitches the tissues together and forms a fully functional lip. It is a well-known operation with a high success rate.
• Cleft Palate Repair – Before the surgery, surgeons usually install a prosthetic device called palatal obturator to help the children eat and speak normally. Cleft palate surgery may be performed when the children are around 6-12 months old. However, as long as the development of the child is continuing, the related operations may be needed.
Instead of traditional cleft palate surgery, doctors nowadays may choose new approaches, such as the Latham appliance. In the Latham appliance, a set of screws placed in the palate is turned daily in order to narrow the cleft. After achieving good results and relatively easier post-op period with the Latham appliance, doctors turn to a cleft palate surgery.
Cleft lip or cleft palate surgery recovery timeline depends on their extent. Sometimes the tissue may feel numb and children can cause damage to themselves without feeling it. Elbow restraints are generally used to prevent children from touching the cleft lip and palate surgery operation site. There may be small amounts of blood in the mucosa or saliva for several days after surgery. Therefore, children's mucus or saliva may appear pink. Additionally, the cleft lip and palate treatment do not complete with a cleft lip surgery or cleft palate surgery – there are several other issues which usually needs to be treated, such as: • Hearing Problems – most of the children have a problem with hearing, known as glue ear where fluid builds up in the ear. • Dental Issues – if the cleft lip affects the gums, teeth may be tilted. • Speaking Problems – especially in cleft palate, children may experience difficulties with proper speaking due to the existence of a connection between oral cavity and nose.
Scars After Surgery
The result of cleft lip and/or cleft palate treatment improves the quality of life of children, including breathing, eating, and speaking. Secondary procedures on the lip or palate may be necessary for functional reasons or to further enhance the appearance. Scars after cleft lip surgery are located within the normal contours of the face and they are usually hard to spot after a few years from this procedure.
To risks and complications of cleft lift and palate repair may include: • Infections • Postoperative bleeding
• Airway obstruction • Complete wound breakdown
Most of the children with cleft lip or cleft palate conditions can live a normal life thanks to cleft lip or palate repair surgeries. Studies have reported that up to 70% of children have good outcomes of their cleft lip and palate surgery, as new techniques are available, this percentage is expected to rise.
What is a Cleft Lip or Cleft Palate? Cleft lip and palate is a medical condition when there is a cleft in lip or palate of a child. It is a developmental issue and is observed right after childbirth or even in prenatal examinations.
What Is the Best Cleft Lip and Palate Treatment? Doctors usually advise a combination of cleft lip and palate surgery with efforts on other fronts – paying attention to child’s dental care, hearing problems, and speaking issues.
Is Cleft Palate Hereditary? Yes, both cleft lip and palate may be hereditary, but it is not the only factor.
This content is written and reviewed by our medical content team in June, 2019.