Congenital disabilities are surprisingly common, and with over 10,000 babies born in the U.S. every day, there’s a significant number of American children who need medical treatment. One of the most common conditions is a cleft lip or palate, with 1 in 1,700 children having a cleft palate, 1 in 2,800 having a cleft lip, and 1 in 1,600 having both.
The good news is, cleft lip and palate repair is relatively simple and performed regularly in the U.S. It was invented in 1816 and has evolved with technology in the 200 years since. Today, you can easily find treatment in Tampa, FL, including at the Arviv Plastic Surgery clinic.
The exact cause of cleft lips and palates is unknown. However, medical researchers believe both genetic and environmental factors play a role. Studies have identified several elements that can increase the risk of children being born with the conditions.
One significant risk factor is genetics. Cleft lips and palates can run in families, so the likelihood of a child being born with these conditions increases if family members also had them. The remaining factors are all environmental:
- Use of certain epilepsy medications during pregnancy
- Smoking during pregnancy
- Diabetes diagnosis before pregnancy
Correcting a split in the lip or palate requires surgery. Cleft lip and palate repair surgeries are performed in infancy, sometimes as early as the first year. In fact, medical experts recommend correcting cleft palates before 18 months and cleft lips before 12 months. While the surgeries can be performed later in life, early correction can prevent developmental issues and help children feel more confident.
Understandably, many parents are anxious about their infant undergoing treatment, which is why it’s important to know what to expect with cleft lip surgery. The procedure to repair a cleft lip is as follows:
- Make incisions on either side of the cleft
- Stitch lip together
- Repair nasal issues if present
The result is a lip with a normal appearance and function.
If your child has both a cleft lip and palate, the palate surgery will be done separately after the lip procedure. When considering what to expect with cleft palate surgery, keep in mind that the condition can affect several parts of the body. Several surgeries may be necessary to correct the related issues. Here at the Arviv Plastic Surgery clinic in Tampa, FL, we discuss all treatment possibilities before the initial surgery to ensure parents know all their options.
During the repair surgery, the surgeon will perform the following procedures:
- Rebuild hard and soft palate
- Make incision on either side of the cleft
- Reposition muscles and tissues
- Close incision with stitches
Ear Tube Surgery
Sometimes a cleft palate can affect the position of the auditory canal, causing hearing problems. Once the palate is repaired, children may need ear tubes to prevent fluid buildup. Chronic ear fluid can affect hearing and children’s ability to learn speech.
Bone Graft Surgery
In the most severe cleft palate cases, part of the jaw bone may be missing or deformed. Fortunately, it’s possible to remedy this issue with a bone graft.
Synthetic or harvested bone material is placed in the jaw during dental bone graft surgery to stimulate growth. Without a strong jawbone, children may have difficulty eating and speaking. Additionally, teeth may not grow correctly. Bone graft surgery is typically performed after lip and palate repair but before adult teeth grow in.
After cleft lip repair surgery, most children only require a hospital stay of one or two days. The stitches used to close the incisions typically dissolve or are ready for removal within a week.
After a cleft palate surgery, children may stay in the hospital for three to seven days, depending on the extent of the work done. Again, the stitches used to close the cleft are removed within a week.
While cleft lip and palate surgeries provide a more normal appearance, their primary purpose isn’t cosmetic. Proper formation of the lips and palate is crucial to babies’ development. Without corrective surgery, children may have the following issues:
- Trouble speaking clearly
- Difficulty hearing
- Abnormal jaw growth
These problems are more difficult to rectify as children get older and set them back in school and social situations.
Arviv Plastic Surgery is proud to help patients at our Tampa location. We can perform cleft lip and palate repair and cosmetic surgeries to improve the look of the nose and lips after healing. To learn more, give us a call at 813-336-6771 or contact us online.
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