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Treat your child’s congenital conditions at the earliest stage possible

A cleft lip and palate is a congenital condition where there is a gap or opening in the upper lip and/or the roof of the mouth (palate). These can occur individually or together and can vary in severity. If your child has been diagnosed with a cleft lip or palate, it may affect their ability to feed, speak, and hear properly, making early diagnosis and treatment essential for their optimal development and long-term health and well-being.

Surgery is the primary treatment for cleft lip and palate. Lip repair and primary cleft tip rhinoplasty are typically performed at six months of age, while palate repair, often with the placement of ear tubes, is done between 11 and 13 months. As your child grows, additional surgeries may be needed for speech improvement, dental alignment, and jaw correction. Schedule a consultation with Dr. Magill to ensure your child receives expert care.

Cleft lip & palate surgery treats:

  • Difficulty with feeding and sucking
  • Speech and articulation problems
  • Hearing issues due to frequent ear infections
  • Nasal deformities affecting breathing
  • Dental and orthodontic abnormalities
  • Facial asymmetry and aesthetic concerns
  • Challenges in social interactions and self-esteem

The types of surgeries your child may need…

Lip Repair
At around six months of age, lip repair surgery is typically performed to close the gap in the upper lip, a characteristic feature of cleft lip. This involves reconstructing the lip tissues to create a seamless, functional, and aesthetically pleasing upper lip contour. In more complex cases, additional procedures like rhinoplasty may be performed simultaneously to address any nasal deformities associated with the cleft, ensuring optimal facial symmetry and function.

Palate Repair
Palate repair surgery is conducted between 11 and 13 months of age to close the gap in the roof of the mouth (palate). This procedure involves repositioning and suturing the soft tissues of the palate to create a functional separation between the oral and nasal cavities. By closing the cleft, palate repair surgery facilitates proper feeding, reduces the risk of fluid buildup in the middle ear, and lays the foundation for normal speech development.

Ear Tube Placement
During palate repair surgery, bilateral myringotomy tubes (ear tubes) are placed to alleviate Eustachian tube dysfunction and prevent fluid buildup in the middle ear. By promoting ventilation and drainage of the middle ear space, ear tube placement helps minimize the risk of hearing loss and recurrent ear infections, which are common complications associated with cleft palate.

Speech Surgery
In some cases where speech remains affected despite palate repair, additional surgical interventions may be necessary to improve speech clarity. These procedures, collectively referred to as speech surgeries, aim to address any residual velopharyngeal insufficiency (VPI) that may be present. Techniques such as pharyngeal flap surgery or sphincter pharyngoplasty may be used to optimize velopharyngeal function and enhance speech articulation.

Orthodontic Surgeries
As the child grows, they may require orthodontic treatments to address dental alignment issues resulting from the cleft. Orthodontic interventions, such as braces or dental appliances, are used to guide the proper alignment of teeth and jaws, ensuring optimal oral function and aesthetics. Additionally, dental surgeries, including bone grafting along the gum line, may be necessary to support permanent dentition and ensure long-term oral health.

Facial and Jaw Surgeries
Adolescents with a history of cleft lip and palate may require surgical interventions to address skeletal discrepancies and enhance facial aesthetics. Jaw surgery, also known as orthognathic surgery, may be performed to correct malocclusion and improve bite function, thereby enhancing facial harmony and symmetry. Additionally, nose surgery, or rhinoplasty, may be recommended to refine nasal contours and improve nasal breathing.

Cleft lip & palate FAQs

What causes cleft lip and palate?

Cleft lip and palate result from a combination of genetic and environmental factors. While the exact cause is often unknown, factors such as family history, maternal smoking or alcohol consumption during pregnancy, and certain medications may increase the risk. However, many cases occur sporadically without a clear genetic or environmental cause.

Can cleft lip and palate be detected before birth?

Yes, in some cases, cleft lip and palate can be detected during routine prenatal ultrasounds. However, not all cases are identified prenatally. Some clefts may only be diagnosed after birth during a physical examination by a healthcare provider.

What is the recovery like after cleft lip and palate surgery?

Recovery from cleft lip and palate surgery depends on the type and extent of the procedure. After lip repair surgery, your child may experience swelling and discomfort, which can be managed with pain medication and proper wound care. Palate repair surgery may require a longer recovery period, during which your child may need to consume soft foods and avoid vigorous activity to prevent injury to the surgical site. Dr. Magill will provide postoperative instructions and closely monitor your child’s progress during the recovery period.

Your Consultation

Alaska Facial Plastic Surgery and ENT is your premier destination for comprehensive care for cleft lip and palate. Led by Dr. Christina Magill, a board-certified facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon, our expert, multidisciplinary team is dedicated to providing personalized treatment plans tailored to each patient’s unique needs. We offer personalized surgeries to support your child through every stage of growth and development and help them overcome the effects of their congenital conditions—schedule your consultation today.

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