What happens during cleft lip and palate surgery?

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Step 1 – Anesthesia

Medications are administered for your child’s comfort during the surgical procedures. The choices include intravenous sedation and general anesthesia. Your doctor will recommend the best choice for your child.

Step 2 – The incision

The goal of cleft lip surgery is to close the separation in the lip and to provide a more normal function, structure and appearance to the upper lip. Incisions are made on either side of the cleft to create flaps of tissue that are then drawn together and stitched to close the cleft.

Cleft Lip Surgery - The Incision

The repair of a cleft palate requires careful repositioning of tissue and muscles to close the cleft and rebuild the roof of the mouth. Incisions are made on either side of the cleft and specialized flap techniques are used to reposition muscle and the hard and soft components of the palate. The repair is then stitched closed, generally at the midline of the roof of the mouth, providing enough length of the palate to allow for normal feeding and speech development, and continued growth throughout life.

Cleft Palate Surgery - The Incision

Step 3 – Closing the incisions

Cleft lip and palate incisions can be closed with removable or absorbable sutures.

Cleft Lip and Palate - Closing the Incisions

A special note: It is important to understand that while a cleft may be surgically repaired in a single plastic surgery procedure, treating a child born with a cleft continues through adolescence and sometime even adulthood. As a child grows, secondary plastic surgery procedures to improve function and appearance may be required.

Step 4 – See the results

The resulting external scars of a cleft repair are generally positioned in the normal contours of the upper lip and nose. Over time, these will fade and your child’s ability to grow and function normally will continue to improve.

Cleft Lip and Palate - Results

 

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