A cleft lip and a cleft palate are birth defects that continue to affect many children all over the world. For sufferers and their families, these deformities can cause a lot of emotional strain. But the good news is that cleft lips and cleft palates can be fixed with surgery, which allows children born with these conditions to grow up to become happy and healthy adults.
Surgery for cleft lip
This is often done when a child is between three and six months old. Patients may have a minor cleft or one that stretches to the base of the nose. A cleft may also be bilateral, affecting both sides of the lip, or unilateral, affecting one sides. Surgeons stitch the lip carefully together and trim away unnecessary tissue.
Surgery for cleft palate
Surgery on a cleft palate is generally performed when a child is between four months and one year old. Sufferers often have a split running backwards from the front gum along the hard palate. Sometimes the soft palate is also affected. Surgeons repair the cleft by starting with the soft palate and then moving onto the hard palate. Finally, the opening in the gum is closed. On some occasions, further surgery is needed to make adjustments.
Surgery for combined cleft lip and cleft palate
In an extreme case, a child will have a lip cleft that continues through the gums and palate. When this happens, surgery will consist of a combination of both of the above procedures.
During all of these operations, patients are given general anaesthetic. Prior to surgery, medical professionals will give parents enough information so that they know exactly what the operation involves and what results to expect. In addition to this, parents will be informed on how to care for their child before and after the operation, as well as how to feed their child while he or she is recovering from cleft lip or cleft palate surgery.