Cleft Lip and Palate

A cleft lip palate is a common congenital condition where the lips are improperly formed. This physical split or separation comes as a result of incomplete joining of the lip tissue. As a result, there occurs a narrow opening or gap in the skin of the upper lip. A split or opening in the roof of the mouth is termed as cleft palate. This happens if the mouth tissue that makes up the roof does not join properly during pregnancy. Both, cleft lip and cleft palate can either occur together, or individually in a child. One or both sides of the mouth may get affected.

The abnormal facial development during pregnancy causes cleft lip and palate condition. The actual cause of these birth defects are still not known. It is assumed that the cause includes a combination of genetic factor from family and other factors such as viruses, certain drugs or toxin materials. Other syndromes or birth defects may also accompany cleft lip and palate. Apart from affecting the facial appearance, these defects also leads to other problems such as ear infection, speech or feeding defect, hearing loss, and teeth problem.

A routine ultrasound during pregnancy or a physical examination after child’s birth helps to confirm cleft lip or palate. Often, surgery is chosen as a best option for closing cleft lip or palate. The cleft lip surgery is usually done within 12 months of age. If the problem poses a big threat to the nose area, then later year may require surgery. A cleft palate is recommended within the first 18 months of life. After surgery, the speech of the child starts to develop normally. In some cases, until the surgery is done, a temporary prosthetic device is used. It keeps the palate closed and enables feeding and growth of the child. Cleft surgery of any kind is an individualized procedure. It not only aims to correct the defect but also ensures functionality and growth of a child. Various medical tests are done to diagnose any other health complications. Chelloplasty is another name for cleft lip repair. The procedure tends to reconstruct a more normal appearance in a child.

Highly skilled and experienced surgeons are recommended for cleft lip surgery. During the surgery, the tissues are trimmed and the lips are sewed together. The stitches in these areas are very small and rarely visible. With the healing of the scar, the stitches will get absorbed in the tissue, and hence are not required to be removed later. For complete repair, a rhinoplasty is also sometimes done in conjunction.

The complications include: Irregular scar healing, bleeding, blood products, residual asymmetries, infection, anesthesia risks, tape allergies, poor incision healing, suture materials and glues or damage to other deeper structures.

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