Plastic Surgery - Cleft Lip Surgery
What are Clefts?
When a baby is forming in the womb it goes through a very complicated process of infolding and shaping in all its parts. The process is controlled by thousands of unknown factors and is very poorly understood.
There are several natural lines in the facial region that represent where infolding parts come together to produce when some unknown influence causes one of these lines to fail to close up normally.
What Causes Clefts?
Unfortunately, we do not know the cause.
Some infections, drugs and environmental factors are associated with an increased incidence of cleft formation, but by far the most common situation is where there is absolutely no history of any exposure to these things. As well, even with known exposure to something known to be risky, only a slightly increased number of clefted babies is usually found. The majority are normal despite the presence of the agent. Clefts also do run in families. Statistically, the chances of having a clefted baby increase in close relatives that have had clefts. However, usually the increased risk is still a very small risk, and depends on many other hereditary factors.
Parents often feel very guilty when they have a child born with a cleft. They feel responsible: they feel if they had done something differently, the cleft would not have occurred. This guilt is understandable but inappropriate. Almost all the factors that influence the formation of a cleft are completely beyond the control of the parents.
What Can be Done About Cleft Lips?
These children can have several potential difficulties, dependent on what parts of the face have been clefted. Clefts of the lip, with or without clefts of the palate, are significant deformities that mar the appearance of a child. Fortunately, they are effectively treated with plastic surgery, which can often result in an almost normal appearance. Operations on the lip usually can be done between 1 to 3 months after birth, depending on the health of the child. They require a general anesthetic. Along with the cleft of the lip there is usually some abnormality of the nose. This is partially corrected at the time the cleft in the lip is repaired, but usually more surgery is required to improve the appearance of the nose as the child gets older.