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Treatment Positioned to Heal

A cleft palate or cleft lip is one of the most common birth defects that can occur in a child. And while they may feel scary and overwhelming at first, remember it’s a highly treatable condition that can be corrected with surgery. Most children with facial clefts have no other birth defects and can expect to lead happy, healthy and full lives.

The Cleft Palate Team at Arnold Palmer Hospital provides comprehensive, state-of-the-art care for children born with cleft palate that is aligned with the American Cleft Palate/Craniofacial Association Parameters of Care. Your child’s highly skilled, multidisciplinary team will include craniomaxillofacial surgeons, ENT surgeons, speech and language pathologists, orthodontists, geneticists and social workers. Further pediatric subspecialists such as pediatric neurosurgery and pediatric ophthalmology are available when needed.

Cleft Palate Surgery FAQs

Do you have questions about cleft palate surgery? We have answers! Below we’ve complied some of your most frequently asked questions.

What is cleft palate and cleft lip?

A facial cleft is a problem in the development of the face or mouth that occurs while a child is still developing in the womb. The most common clefts happen when the parts of the upper lip and jaw or roof of the mouth fail to connect and leave a gap. This can result in a complete separation or only a partial one. A child can be born with a cleft of the lip, a cleft of the palate or both at the same time. And since this occurs very early in development, sometimes a cleft can be seen on a prenatal ultrasound.

What does a diagnosis of cleft palate mean for my child?

Most children with clefts of the lip and/or palate will grow to reach their full potential. Your child’s cleft care will be coordinated through the cleft palate team with visits about once per year. Surgical care for structural defects at the lip and nose, jaw or palate are most often performed in stages based on your child’s growth and development. Speech and language therapy or orthodontic therapy are frequently required, as are regular dental and hearing care.

What will my child’s treatment plan look like?

Birth to 3 months

  • Diagnosis and comprehensive medical evaluation
  • Establish a pediatric primary care home
  • Referral to cleft palate surgeon
  • Focus on feeding and weight gain with involvement of speech therapy/occupational therapy as needed
  • Newborn hearing screen

3 to 6 months

  • Continue regular pediatric visits
  • Continue focus on feeding and weight gain
  • Cleft lip repair (first surgery)
  • Check ears and hearing

6 to 18 months

  • Continue regular pediatric visits
  • Introduction to Arnold Palmer Medical Center (APMC) cleft palate team
  • Check ears and hearing
  • Cleft palate repair (second surgery)
  • Begin to follow speech and language development closely
  • Establish a pediatric dental home (first dental visit)

18 months to 5 years

  • Continue regular pediatric visits
  • Monitor ears and hearing
  • Continue regular dental care
  • Closely monitor speech and language development and manage velopharyngeal insufficiency (hypernasal speech) with surgery prior to school age, when needed
  • Lip and nose revision surgery prior to school age, when needed

6 to 13 years

  • Continue regular pediatric visits
  • Monitor ears and hearing
  • Continue regular dental care
  • Establish an orthodontic home and first set of braces
  • Closely monitor speech and language development and manage velopharyngeal insufficiency (hypernasal speech) with surgery, when needed
  • Bone graft the upper jaw cleft to support the adult teeth

14 to 22 years

  • Continue regular pediatric visits
  • Continue regular dental care
  • Final orthodontics
  • Jaw surgery when needed
  • Rhinoplasty when needed
  • Genetic counselling
  • Dental implants/rehabilitation as needed

For More Information

Contact APMC Cleft Palate Team Coordinator Suzanne Martin, BSN, R.N.  Call 407.839.8407.