Our Services / Understanding Cleft Lip and Palate Surgery
A cleft lip is a split or separation of the upper lip resulting in a formed gap. The gap is a result of the absence of adequate tissue in the lip and mouth area, resulting in an improper joining of what tissue is available. A cleft palate is a split in the roof of the mouth, either in the bony front part or the soft back part. Both cleft lip and cleft palate conditions occur in the fetus stage during pregnancy, and they are among the most common birth defects in the United States. Cleft lip and palate surgery help to correct these defects so patients may lead a normal life.
Cleft lip and cleft palate present both physical and psychological problems for a child. A cleft lip will cause a child to have trouble speaking and distort the sound of the voice. In the case of a cleft palate, the gap allows food and liquids to pass from the mouth to the nose. Additionally, cleft palate causes fluid to collect in the middle ear, which can cause ear infection and hearing loss. Besides the physical issues, without cleft lip and palate surgery, children can become shy and self-conscious and lose confidence and self-esteem because of their appearance and the physical effects.
Correcting these conditions through cleft lip and palate surgery is among the specializations of Toronto plastic surgeon Dr. Colin Hong. Cleft lip surgery is usually done when the child is 10 weeks of age, if the rest of the physical development is normal. Cleft palate surgery is normally done on a child between 9 to 18 months. While in most cases a single surgery is enough to correct these conditions, Dr. Hong advises his clients that as the child becomes older, additional procedures can be required to accommodate changes in the lip and mouth caused by growth.
Toronto cleft lip and palate surgery is done under general anesthesia. In the case of a cleft lip, incisions are made on each side of the gap and flaps of tissue are created. The flaps are brought together and sutured in place to close the gap. Cleft palate surgery follows a similar procedure with incisions made on both sides of the cleft and special techniques used to move muscles and the hard and soft parts of the palate to close the gap. Surgeons may use either dissolving or removable stitches to close the incisions.
Patients are normally required to remain in the Toronto hospital or surgical facility for up to a week after the surgery. Complete recovery may take up to three weeks. Patients and their parents are fully briefed in advance on how to prevent infection, how to ensure that the healing wound is not stretched and how to clean the lip and mouth. Patients are usually required to wear splints or other devices to prevent them from touching or opening the wound.