The answer to the question “can cleft lip and palate be repaired?” is “yes.” These congenital deformities can be corrected with reconstructive plastic surgery, providing for excellent outcomes. As parent of an infant with the disorder, you will have an initial consultation with an expert plastic surgeon and maybe with a pediatrician too to discuss the procedure and the best time to have the surgery done. Usually, a team is put together to devise a treatment plan within the initial few days after the infant’s birth. The scheme of treatment would vary with each individual child, depending on his overall health, location and seriousness of his cleft (s) and the presence of other birth defects or related syndromes.
Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate Surgery – Specialized and Effective
The first mode of treatment considered for cleft lip is NAM (Nasal Alveolar Molding), a kind of pre-operative adjustment. NAM is typically started within 7 to 14 days of the baby’s birth and is a long and challenging process. However, it fulfills three objectives:
- Realignment of the upper jaw’s cleft sections
- Getting the cleft’s edges closer together for more convenience to accurately fix the problem while limiting scarring
- Starting rectification of the nasal defect to enable a more normal looking nose
In children with bilateral cleft lip, the molding period would be of a longer duration than that for children with the unilateral version. In addition to aesthetic benefits, NAM also assists with feeding and may even improve speech.
Several surgeries may be required for the purpose of cleft palate repair during the child’s initial 18 years of life. The initial surgery performed for repair also has three goals:
- To develop a functional palate
- To reduce the possibilities of fluid accumulation in the middle ear
- To facilitate correct development of the child’s facial bones and teeth
Repair of the problem would not only improve the child’s appearance but also reduce or even do away with the associated speech, hearing and dental problems.
Factors such as the surgeon’s proficiency and the seriousness of the problem ultimately determine whether additional operations would be required to correct cleft lip and palate.
Some Words about Feeding a Child Who Has Cleft Palate
If your baby has a cleft palate, you would not be able to breast feed him in the normal manner or even with just a standard bottle. The reason for this is that the opening caused by the deformity will hinder the baby’s ability to provide the necessary suction to draw the required quantity of milk for a particular feeding, from the bottle. So as soon as the deformity is diagnosed, do ask your plastic surgeon or pediatrician for feeding tips or to suggest suitable feeding bottles.
The conclusion is that though treatment may involve many years of corrective care, cleft lip and palate can be successfully repaired. Repair should be done as early as possible to minimize complications.