Cleft Lip Surgery

Cleft Lip Repair – Much More Than Surgery

We have all seen the advertisements for third world children and cleft lips. They are bit unsettling but they get the job done and people do donate towards the cause. But what is the cause behind cleft lip and what kind of procedures can be performed to rectify this issue?

So, a little bit of background on cleft lip and cleft palate. Both of these abnormalities can occur due to a congenital deformity during gestation. The cleft is defined as a fissure or opening. Approximately 1 in 700 children born have a cleft lip or a cleft palate or both.

There are two main causes which can produce these features in children: genetic and environmental. The genetic factors which contribute towards is still an active area of research, however a few genes have been identified in some syndromic cases. Some common genes in this case are: AXIN2, BMP4, FGFR1, FGFR2, and many others.

The environmental causes are primarily linked to poor maternal habits such as: smoking during pregnancy, alcohol abuse, and illegal drug additions (cocaine, crack cocaine, heroin, etc.). However, exposure to pesticides has also been cited as a cause. It is important for expecting parents to avoid these chemical exposures when they are pregnant or expecting to become pregnant.

Some people see cleft lip surgery as only a cosmetic repair. However, Cleft lip surgery is much more than a cosmetic repair. Cleft lip can impair some basic functions such as speech development and the ability to eat properly. With Cleft lip repair, children can  be expect to function and grow normally.

Surgeons generally perform cleft repairs when the children are at least 10 weeks of age, weight 10 pounds or more, and have a hemoglobin count of at least 10. However, circumstances will vary and those who are expecting to have the surgery performed on their child should consult with a surgeon.

During the actual surgery, surgeons take great care in repositioning the tissues and muscles on other side of the cleft to rebuild the roof of the mouth. They use special flap techniques which reposition muscles, including the hard and soft components of the palate. Over time the external scars which are left from the cleft repair will fade and children will be able to grow and function normally.

It is important to note that health insurance plans will most likely cover cleft surgery since it is a reconstructive procedure, however it is important to always consult with your insurance carrier to make sure that this is the case.

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