CLEFT LIP/PALATE REPAIR
An infant may be born with a cleft lip and/or palate. With a cleft palate, there is a noticeable gap in the roof of the mouth which should separate the mouth from the nose. A cleft lip is a split on one or both sides of the baby's lip. A cleft lip can be partial where there's only a slight split on the lip, or it can be a complete cleft lip where the division runs from the baby's upper gum into his or her nostril. Usually, when the baby is about three to four months old, the plastic surgeon performs surgery to repair the cleft lip. A cleft palate is usually repaired between nine to twelve months of age. A cleft palate affects feeding as well as the baby’s growth and speech development- for this reason, infants with a cleft palate usually require care from a multi-disciplinary team comprising of a plastic surgeon, speech therapist, ear nose and throat surgeon, and maxillo-facial specialist.
A procedure called a cheiloplasty is surgery to correct a cleft lip. Cleft lip repair surgery seals the baby's cleft and improves the symmetry of the infant's lip and nose. In a case where the baby's cleft lip is extensive, the surgeon may initiate pre-surgical therapy to narrow the cleft. This may include naso-alveolar moulding with a plate, taping of the lip or lip adhesion. After cleft lip surgery, there's a scar left beneath the baby's nose, but it is placed along the philtrum column and is fairly inconspicuous.
To correct a cleft palate, when the baby turns nine to twelve months old, the plastic surgeon performs a palatoplasty. The surgeon performs a palatoplasty to close the hole between the infant’s nose and mouth to improve speech development and prevent food from seeping out the nose. Cleft palate repair often requires staged procedures to seal the cleft in sections. The most important stage of palate repair surgery, is when the plastic surgeon realigns and corrects soft palate muscles to promote speech development- this is usually done as the first stage.
Cleft lip repair takes one to two hours.
Cleft palate repair takes one to two hours.
The child will undergo general anaesthesia for this procedure so they will be completely asleep and pain-free.
Cleft lip and palate repair surgery are both in-patient procedures.
After the procedure there may be some swelling, discomfort, bleeding from the sutures. The cleft lip repair may appear or feel ‘tight’ immediately after surgery. In the case of palate repair surgery there may be difficulty swallowing.
Risks of cleft palate surgery include bleeding, infection, respiratory complications and wound breakdown.
The patient’s surgeon prescribes medication to alleviate pain and prevent infection. It is important to protect the palate repair in the early post-operative period, therefore the plastic surgeon will give special instructions regarding what the child can eat and drink during the recovery phase.
A few months after cleft lip repair surgery, lip scars will begin to fade.
Cleft lip and palate surgery improve the child's quality of life and enhance speech development. Secondary surgeries are may be necessary in some cases for functional or aesthetic purposes.
WHEN YOU CHOOSE A DOCTOR WHO IS A MEMBER OF APRASSA, YOU CAN BE ASSURED THAT YOUR SURGEON IS QUALIFIED IN ALL ASPECTS OF COSMETIC AND RECONSTRUCTIVE SURGERY.
The Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons of Southern Africa was formed in 1956. It currently has over 169 members from all around South Africa. All our members are fully qualified Plastic surgeons that have been approved for APRASSA membership and will endeavour to provide you with excellent care throughout your plastic surgery journey.