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Treatment for Cleft Lip & Palate

The St. Louis Cleft-Craniofacial Center is dedicated to meeting the needs of children with cleft lip and palate. Led by board-certified pediatric plastic surgeons from the SLUCare Physician Group, our team provides each family who walks through our door with the specialized care and support that transforms lives.

We understand how important it is for your child to feel normal and to be able to function and speak fully. These unique human qualities allow us to interact with each other and reach our full potential.

Working closely with you and your child, our goal is to restore the unique elements of your child’s appearance so that they can speak and function more normally, achieving their best life.

What is a Cleft Lip or Palate?

In the US, approximately 4,440 babies are born with a cleft lip, a condition in which the top lip fails to form completely. As a result, some of these children are also born with a cleft palate, a condition where the muscles in the roof of the mouth fail to form completely. Every year, more than 2,650 babies in the US are born with a cleft palate.

If not treated, this condition can lead to speech and hearing problems, ear infections and problems with feeding.

Treating Cleft Lip & Palate

Our pediatric plastic surgeons are trained in cleft lip and palate surgery and can reshape the bones of the face to improve appearance and function. During your child’s reconstruction, we can also repair the cartilage and soft tissues of the face, lips, palate, nose and tongue.

Each child is different and so is their cleft. We are committed to compassionate, precise care through every step of the process, from evaluation, consultation and innovation.

Using the most advanced surgical techniques and care approach, we are able to achieve stunning results while helping your child recover as safely and quickly as possible.

Surgical Treatment for Cleft Lip

If your baby was born with a cleft lip we recommend lip repair surgery when your baby is between three and six months old. The procedure is performed under general anesthesia. Your child’s surgeon will make incisions on either side of the cleft to create folds of tissue that are then aligned and stitched to close and heal.

If your child has a wide opening between the lip, we may perform a temporary procedure that brings the lip close together before the complete repair is made. An orthodontic appliance may also be used before and after the cleft lip surgery to help align the lip and nose.

Surgical Treatment for Cleft Palate

We typically repair a cleft palate when your child is nine to 12 months of age. Once your child is under general anesthesia, the plastic surgeon carefully rebuilds the opening between the nose and the mouth, and the roof of the mouth, by putting the tissue and muscles in a better position. Your child’s pediatric surgeon will make incisions on both sides of the opening, creating flaps, allowing the palate to be reshaped. Stitches then allow the mouth to heal over time. In some cases, your child may need additional surgeries to achieve optimal results.

After surgery, we will carefully observe your child overnight in the hospital. Typically, they will stay there for one to two nights, or until they are comfortable and able to drink sufficient fluids.

Our surgical results are consistently excellent. Almost immediately, you will cherish your child’s new ability to smile and see the improvement in their speech and ability to function.

As your child continues to age and develop, additional surgeries may be required to enhance their function and appearance. If this is the case, we will discuss the timeline of procedures with you and help coordinate any follow-up care with your child’s pediatrician.

The St. Louis Cleft-Craniofacial Center is specifically designed to include both pediatric plastic surgeons as well as specific support specialties and staff. Your child will benefit from our expertise and the help of experts in speech language athology who can evaluate and treat any speech issues that may result.

Together, the team is designated an Affiliated Team by the American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association (ACPA), the governing association of cleft-craniofacial centers.

We believe it’s important for you to understand your child's condition and receive the best care possible. At SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital, your child’s care journey starts with a consultation. Here you can ask any and all questions you may have. We then guide you through the process, making sure your child receives the excellent care they need and deserve.

To make an appointment with our team, please call 314-678-2182. You can also email us with any questions about your child's condition.

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