Out of every 4,000 births in a year, 1 baby has a cleft lip. This birth defect involves the nose and the palate of the mouth, in which there is a large enough separation to make it appear as though the lip is “split.” Cleft lip or cleft palate may be discovered in an ultrasound or at the time of birth. In either scenario, the time to investigate options for correction is now. In the hands of a skilled surgeon, the poorly formed mouth can be repaired.
What Is A Cleft Lip?
A cleft lip is the result of inadequate formation of the nose, palate, and mouth. This abnormality usually occurs during the first trimester of pregnancy. The degree to which tissues fuse together at this time – or fail to – differs from one baby to another. Any amount of separation, however, can be significant.
Why Repair Should be Considered
In addition to the obvious social and emotional difficulties of living with this medical condition, children with a cleft lip abnormality may also have a hard time eating. Due to the separation in the mouth, sucking, and therefore breastfeeding, may not be adequate. This problem may be overcome with a special bottle design used until the palate can be corrected. Tooth development may not occur as it should, which can have a negative effect not only on oral health but also on speech patterns. Cleft palate also increases a baby’s risk of middle ear infection and hearing loss.
Treating the Cleft Lip or Cleft Palate
Correction is necessary for the baby born with a cleft lip or cleft palate. The question is not “if,” but “when” surgery will be performed. The determination regarding the timing of surgery is made after a thorough consultation and examination, which will confirm the extent of separation and the involvement of tissue. Cleft lip surgery may take place sometime during the first year of life, whereas cleft palate repair may have to wait. The treating physician will also consider whether ear tubes need to be inserted to prevent fluid buildup, which invites infection.
We understand the anxiety you may feel over your baby’s condition and the treatment he or she will need. Our caring staff provides you with the information you need, as well as support that will help you manage your infant’s quality of life before and after corrective surgery.
Need more information on cleft lip repair? Call our Metairie office at (504) 378-2030.