Cleft lip and cleft palate deformities are among the most common birth defects. Nearly 7,000 U.S. children are born with one or both of these deformities each year, and surgical intervention is the only effective means of correction.
Most people recognize a cleft lip when they see one, as this condition is characterized by a visible split in the upper lip that extends to the base of the nose. A cleft palate, on the other hand, is not as apparent and is characterized by a gap in the roof of the mouth. These deformities can affect one or both sides of the lip and/or mouth.
Cleft lip and palate repair can be performed on adults of any age and in some cases on children as young as a few weeks old. It is ideal to seek cleft lip and/or palate repair for your child as soon as your surgeon deems it appropriate, as having this deformity corrected can spare them years of problems with swallowing, breathing, speaking, irregular facial development and potential psychological difficulties.
Cleft lip and palate repair procedures are typically performed by Drs. John van Aalst and Earl Gauge at the UNC Aesthetic & Laser Center. Drs. van Aalst and Gauge are experts in cleft lip and cleft palate reconstruction and frequently donate their skills to children worldwide who are affected by these common deformities.
During cleft lip and palate repair, Drs. van Aalst and Gauge carefully join the skin and muscle on either side of the cleft. Bone grafts may also be needed to repair a cleft palate. General anesthesia is used during cleft lip and cleft palate repair, and these procedures usually take 1-3 hours to perform.
Children will typically remain in our hospital facility for 2-3 days after cleft lip and/or cleft palate repair. They may consume liquids immediately after surgery or as soon as they are well-tolerated, according to age. You should expect some swelling and bloody drainage, and mild non-aspirin pain reliever may be administered to relieve discomfort.
Keep incisions clean and ensure the incision site is not disturbed. It is also important to finish all antibiotics and return for your first follow-up visit within one week of surgery.
If you or your child suffers from a cleft lip and/or cleft palate deformity, contact the caring facial reconstruction specialists at the UNC Aesthetic, Laser & Burn Center. We help cleft lip and palate patients in Chapel Hill, Durham, Raleigh, Greensboro and all over the world.