Cleft Lip and Palate
Alternate Names : Cleft Lip, Cleft Palate, Oral Cleft
What are the treatments for the condition?
Feeding is the first priority after a baby is born with a cleft palate. Because of the split in the roof of the mouth of babies with cleft palate, it is hard for the baby to make enough suction to pull milk out of the breast. Therefore, breastfeeding is difficult. Special nipples and infant nursing bottles are useful in feeding babies with cleft lip and palate. These special nipples and bottles deliver formula or pumped breast milk to the back of the baby's mouth so it can be swallowed. Dental devices can also be used to temporarily seal the opening in the palate enough to allow sucking.
Surgical repair of cleft lip and palate are advised. Surgery is usually done in several stages and by several specialists. The first operation for cleft lip is usually done at about two months of age. By this time, most infants have gained enough weight to tolerate the surgery and have built up immunity against infection. The palate is usually repaired before the baby is one year old. This helps with normal speech development. The cosmetic outcome of the surgery depends on the extent of the defects and the skill of the surgeon.
What are the side effects of the treatments?
Regardless of how good the surgery to repair cleft lip and palate is, there may be scarring. Scars from the surgery may cause speech problems or emotional embarrassment. Surgery may cause bleeding, infections, and allergic reaction to anesthesia. If antibiotics are needed for infection, side effects, including stomach upset and allergic reaction, may occur.
What happens after treatment for the condition?
After surgery, especially in an infant, it is important that the area of the surgical repair not get infected. The baby's arms may have to be restrained with splints that do not allow the elbows to bend. This keeps the baby's hands away from his or her face. Special feedings and fluid diets may be needed for several weeks after the operation.
How is the condition monitored?
A person with cleft lip and palate should be monitored by a team of specialists. It is important for these experts to monitor the following:
alignment and condition of teeth
effects of surgery
growth and development
need for further surgery
The person or family also may need help accessing community resources. People with cleft lip and palate may want genetic counseling before having children.