The Importance of Early Cleft Palate Surgery

The Importance of Early Cleft Palate Surgery


Every three minutes a child is born with a cleft lip or palate. It is estimated that cleft lip with or without cleft palate affects 1 in 940 births in the United States, presenting in approximately 4,437 cases each year. Organizations like operation smile have saved multiple lives of children suffering from a cleft palate of cleft lip, a deformity caused during birth. Operation Smile’s mission is to give every child exceptional surgical care, as they believe all children deserve to be treated as if they were their own. 

What is a cleft palate?

An orofacial cleft is when a baby is born with an opening in the lip and/or roof of the mouth (palate). During the first 6 to 10 weeks of pregnancy, the bones and tissues of a baby's upper jaw, nose, and mouth normally come together (fuse) to form the roof of the mouth and the upper lip. A cleft happens when parts of the lip and mouth do not completely fuse together.

A cleft lip may just look like a small opening on the edge of the lip, or it could extend into the nose. It may also extend into the gums. A cleft palate can vary in size. It could affect just the soft palate, which is near the back of the throat, or it also could make a hole in the hard palate toward the front of the mouth. Having a cleft palate can affect speech, eating, hearing loss, and a host of other issues, and surgery is needed to repair it.

A cleft lip is usually surgically repaired in the hospital using general anesthesia when a child is 3 to 6 months old. If the cleft lip is wide, special procedures like lip adhesion or a molding plate device might help bring the parts of the lip closer together before the lip is fully repaired. Cleft lip repair usually leaves a small scar on the lip under the nose.

Why is Early Treatment Important?

A child born with a cleft lip or cleft palate can begin early treatment to enable the restoration of as normal an appearance as possible. The early treatment minimizes the social discomfort a child born with a facial deformity may feel as the child grows.

In addition to correction of lip, palate, nose and facial structures, the treatment team will work to prevent hearing and speech difficulties that may accompany such anomalies. The specialized approach to correcting deformities of the lip and palate is unique in the care and attention given to enhancing a child's quality of life as soon as possible.

If you need more information regarding cleft lip or cleft palates call Atlantic Center Surgery at (954) 983-1899 to request an appointment with Dr. Stelnicki.