What is a cleft lip and cleft palate?
A cleft lip creates an opening in the upper lip between the mouth and the nose and a cleft palate occurs when the two sides of a palate do not join together – this leaves an opening in the roof of the mouth. A cleft lip and palate can occur on one or both sides of the mouth. It is possible for a baby to be born with just a cleft lip or a cleft lip and a cleft palate or only a cleft palate.
What causes cleft lip and cleft palate?
An exact cause has not been determined. Clefting is a congenital defect that occurs early in embryonic growth. It is believed that a combination of genetic and environmental factors, such as maternal illness, drugs, interbreeding and malnutrition, may lead to a baby being born with a cleft. Researchers report that a family history of facial clefts is present in approximately 40 percent of all cases.
Can a cleft lip or a cleft palate be prevented?
Methods are being researched to prevent cleft lip and cleft palates. Some research suggests that taking multivitamins that include folic acid before conception and during the first two months of pregnancy may reduce the risk of a baby being born with a cleft.
How often are babies born with a cleft lip or cleft palate?
In the US a cleft lip and/or a cleft palate occurs in about 1 in every 700 births. In developing countries such as Ecuador the rate of clefting is estimated to be as high as 1 in every 350 births. The exact rate varies among different geographic areas and ethnic groups.
Is a cleft lip or a cleft palate strictly a cosmetic deformity?
No, people who suffer from a cleft lip or a cleft palate often have a difficult time eating. In developing nations this often causes issues with proper nutrition. Babies are often malnourished because they find it difficult to nurse. In the US patients work with specialists to help them adapt until their cleft can be repaired. People with clefts often develop dental problems as well as ear disease. It is also common to have problems with proper speech development. To address these issues families in developed nations will often work with a team of specialists that will likely include a pediatrician, dentist, plastic surgeon, otolaryngologist, speech therapist, social worker and a geneticist.
What can be done to repair a cleft lip or cleft palate?
Thankfully, a lot can be done. Reconstructive surgery provides excellent results. Cleft lip surgery is usually performed when a baby is 3-4 months old. Cleft lip often only requires one reconstructive surgery, especially in the case of a unilateral cleft lip. Bilateral cleft lips are usually repaired with two surgeries. Cleft palate can require several surgeries over the course of the child’s first 18 years. The first surgery usually occurs when the baby is between 6 and 12 months old. This surgery involves palatal lengthening and drawing tissue from the side of the mouth to rebuild the palate. The necessity for more surgery will depend upon the severity of the cleft.
Accomplishment: A volunteer medical team led by Rubinstein is one of 15 national recipients of Kaiser Permanente's 2011 David Lawrence Community Service Award.
Details: Rubinstein, chief for pediatric otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at Kaiser Permanente Roseville Medical Center, is the founder of Faces of Tomorrow, a Davis-based nonprofit organization that provides free surgeries to children and adults with facial deformities inEcuador and the Philippines.
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17 year old Marvin Contiri came to our screening clinic in 2011 to have his bilateral cleft lip and cleft palate repaired and unfortunately we had to turn him away. He learned about the mission late and by the time he arrived our schedule was jam packed and we could not take any more patients. He returned in 2012 and this was his year.Read More: Marvin Contiri
During our 2011 mission to the Philippines we met 19 year old Aireen. Aireen has a severe cleft lip and palate. She also suffers from various neurological deficits leaving her severely delayed. She came to us with many family members as supporters. Our doctors examined her and as a team decided it would not be safe to operate on her because of unknown health risks.Read More: Aireen - A Promise Kept
11 year old Patrick "Captain America" touched the heart of every member of our team. He arrived at our clinic wearing a Captain America t-shirt and to our surprise speaking freely in English to our team. It was really special being able to communicate with him directly.Read More: Kyle Patrick - Captain America