What You Should Know about Cleft Lip and Palate
Cleft lip and palate is a congenital abnormality that is estimated to affect one in every 700 babies
in the United States each year. This condition is more frequent among Asians, where one in
every 400 babies is usually affected, and certain American Indians. The incidence of cleft lip and
palate is much less among African Americans and Africans, with one in 1500 babies seen to
have this condition. Cleft lip can occur with or without cleft palate. Cleft lip is characterized by a
cleft between the medial and lateral lip sections. Apart from causing distortion of the lip, this
also affects the shape of the nose and the upper jaw.
Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate – Possible Causes
The actual cause of cleft lip and cleft palate is not completely known. It is sometimes attributed
to some underlying genetic condition. A cleft palate occurring in isolation without a cleft lip is
often said to be related to a condition such as Pierre Robin syndrome. Cleft lip and cleft palate is
also linked to embryonic changes during the early weeks of gestation, resulting from
environmental factors such as maternal diseases, radiation, alcohol, excess retinoic acid,
chemotherapy and anticonvulsant medications. Teenage pregnancies, pregnancies in women
older than 35 and excess consumption of teratogens during the early stages of pregnancy are also
believed to be contributing factors.
Cleft Lip Repair via Surgery
A cleft lip occurring along with a cleft palate is initially treated using the NAM or the nasal
alveolar molding technique. By means of this procedure which is preoperative adjustment for the
condition, the plastic surgeon can realign the cleft parts of the upper jaw, draw the edges of the
cleft lip closer to facilitate more precise cleft repair and begin correction of the nasal anomaly to
ensure a more natural looking nose. NAM is typically begun as early as one or two weeks after
birth to enable a speedy and comprehensive course of treatment. The duration of NAM may
differ from one child to another, with more time required for kids with more severe deformity.
The procedure is immensely beneficial for children with bilateral cleft lip and palate, a condition
where there is a cleft on both sides of the premaxilla. Once the anatomical alignment is made
more normal, it is possible to provide a more accurate cleft lip repair. Surgery to correct the cleft
lip is performed within two to three months after birth. Surgery to correct cleft palate is provided
when the child is between six and twelve months of age. Repeated procedures may be necessary
as the child grows older.
Approach a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon for Safe and Effective Cleft Lip Repair
Surgery for cleft lip and palate repair is provided at reputable plastic surgery centers in the
United States. The surgeon you choose to take your child to should be board certified and
experienced in providing this surgery. He/she would explain all details regarding the surgery,
results you can expect and the post-operative care to be given to your child. With advanced
surgical treatment available now, cleft lip and palate can be corrected with minimal scarring.
Sean Boutros, M.D.
Houston Plastic and Craniofacial Surgery
6400 Fannin, Suite 2290
Houston, TX 77030