Cleft Lip or Palate Surgery

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Cleft Lip or Palate Surgery




What Is It?


One in 800 babies is born with a cleft lip or cleft palate issue. In normal child development, the right and left sides of the lips along with the mouth form normally, growing together. But, when they do not, there can be a separation in the upper lip called a cleft lip. Or, there can be a separation in the upper roof area of the mouth called a cleft palate. Each of these conditions or disorders can cause the child to be uncomfortable, ridiculed and disadvantaged in many ways. In most cases, the child cannot eat or speak normally. So, there are surgical procedures available that can properly address both of these issues for the patient.




The Operation


For cleft lip surgery, the surgeon will make an incision on either side of the cleft, generally from the mouth into the nostril area. Then, the darker pink areas of the cleft will be pulled down and the muscles and the skin of the lips will be closed together. Afterwards, the muscle function should be returned to normal, and in most cases the child’s ability to use their lips will be returned to normal as well. In some cases, multiple surgeries will be required.


For cleft palate surgery, the surgeon will make an incision on both sides of the separation on the inside of the child’s mouth. The surgeon will often need to re-build the palate, joining the muscled together. The primary goal is to help the child to eat and speak normally following the surgery.




Alternatives to Surgery


Many children are forced to live with these conditions. There is not an alternate procedure available to address and resolve these issues.




Before The Operation


The surgeon will provide the patient with specific instructions to follow for before the surgery. In some cases, there will be instructions related to losing weight, stopping medication, adding medications and when to stop eating or drinking prior to the surgical day. It is imperative that all of the instructions are followed to improve the chances of the surgery going well.




After The Operation- In the Hospital


While in the hospital recovering, the patient will be awakening from anesthesia and preparing to go home for the remainder of their recovery. Some facilities will enable patients to stay to recover, while others consider this to be an outpatient procedure and will allow the patients to go home once they are able to sit up and keep fluids down.




After The Operation- At Home


It will be normal for the child to experience discomfort following either procedure, however, in most cases there will be pain medications prescribed to help manage the pain. In the event that the child is rubbing the area excessively, restraints may be used on the child’s arms to prevent them from rubbing the stitches which can cause complications.


The dressings that may have been used will be removed within a few days of surgery at a follow up appointment and in most cases the stitches that were used will simply dissolve over time.


The scars from these surgeries are often pronounced and will become redder within the few days following surgery. With time, the visibility of the scars will reduce.




Possible Complications


While not all patients will experience complications, it is important to review and understand the risks. Possible complications can include the following:


  • Bleeding
  • Scarring
  • Slow wound healing time
  • Swelling
  • Blot clots
  • Asymmetry of the face
  • Negative reactions to the anesthesia





General Advice


As with any surgical procedure, it is advised to ask many questions about the process and the possible side effects in order to be fully prepared. When choosing a plastic surgeon, be sure to evaluate several and inquire as to their expertise and education before selecting one.




Estimated Costs for Cleft Lip and Palate Surgery


Country Costs
USA $5,000-10,000
Brazil $3,500-6,000
Costa Rica $4,000-7,000
South Africa $2,500-5,000
Thailand $2,000-2500

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