Cleft Lip and Palate

Reconstructive Surgery for Cleft Lip and Palate

Cleft lip and cleft palate occur when the lip and/or the roof of the mouth do not grow together properly as an unborn child is developing. These relatively common birth defects occur very early in pregnancy. The cause is not clear, but physicians believe they are due to genetics and certain environmental factors.

Reasons for Cleft Lip and Palate Repair

Any child with cleft lip or cleft palate should be considered for reconstructive surgery. If left untreated, these conditions can result in disruption of:

  • Breathing
  • Speech
  • Eating
  • Breastfeeding

Cleft lip and palate may also make a person more vulnerable to colds, cavities and ear infections.  Children born with a cleft deformity usually require one or more surgeries to repair it, beginning when they are 6 to 12 months old. Repairing a cleft lip or cleft palate is part of a series of surgeries that will help correct many of the ear, nose and throat problems that children with this birth defect often experience. The surgery scar will fade over time and will be barely noticeable in older children.

FAQ About Cleft Lip and Palate Repair in Southern California

The following are frequently asked questions about cleft lip and palate surgery at UCI Plastic Surgery. If you would like more information, please contact our plastic surgery offices in Orange County.

How does a plastic surgeon repair cleft lip and cleft palate?

Surgical repair of cleft lip and palate is typically performed in a hospital with an overnight stay. The patient is asleep under general anesthesia. Most cases can be completed in one operation, while others may need more than one. The patient’s comfort before, during, and after the surgery is very important to the plastic surgeons and staff of UCI Plastic Surgery. Safe pain medication and antibiotics will be administered as necessary.

The surgery is performed on the soft palate musculature. The doctor repositions the abnormally oriented tissues, placing incisions inside the patient’s mouth. Repair of a cleft lip requires incisions on either side of the cleft. The dark pink tissue is then turned down and pulled together to close the cleft.

Does cleft lip and palate surgery leave scars?

Your plastic surgeon will do everything possible to minimize scarring. Incisions for cleft palate surgery are not visible because they are placed inside the mouth. In some cases, patients undergo procedures later in life to reduce the residual scars from cleft lip.

What happens after cleft lip and palate repair?

The area will be swollen for the first few days. The staff at UCI Plastic Surgery will provide specific instructions for recovery, including steps on how to care for dressings, manage pain, shower, and schedule follow-up appointments.

Why should I choose UCI Plastic Surgery for cleft lip and palate repair?

At UCI Plastic Surgery, Dr. Daniel C. Jaffurs has special expertise related to cleft lip and cleft palate. His interests include genetic causes of craniofacial abnormalities, pediatric plastic surgery and cleft lip/cleft palate repair. Dr. Jaffurs uses advanced techniques in distraction osteogenesis for the treatment of congenital defects.

What are the risks of cleft lip and palate repair?

Your physician will discuss the benefits and potential risks based on your individual case, medical history and evaluation. Cleft lip and cleft palate repair are very safe surgeries, but there are always risks with any surgery. In rare instances, infection or breathing problems can occur, both of which can be treated.

Will my child need more procedures after reconstructive surgery?

Common procedures after cleft lip and palate surgery include fixing of teeth (by an orthodontist) and speech therapy.

Do you have a child with cleft lip or cleft palate in Southern California? You can learn more about reconstructive surgery for facial birth defects by contacting the Orange County plastic surgeons of UCI Plastic Surgery today. Use our online email form to contact us or call the office to speak with our friendly staff.