Cleft Lip and Palate

The plastic surgery team at the University of Kansas in Overland Park and Independence proudly performs cleft lip and palate repair surgeries for people who suffer from these birth defects.
  • Repairs cleft lip and palate
  • Promotes normal speech development
  • Improves breathing and speaking

Who Should Undergo a Cleft Lip and Palate Repair?

The cleft lip and palate repair surgery corrects a narrow gap in the skin of the upper lip extending to the nose and a separation in the roof of the mouth. Individuals with this issue often have difficulty communicating. The procedure can normalize speech as well as encourage healthy growth in children and improve swallowing. The earlier an individual is able to undergo the procedure, the better the results may be, though repair too early may lead to some mouth or jaw deformities.

What Happens During Surgery?

For children as young as three months, the cleft lip repair procedure takes about 1-2 hours to complete and is performed under general anesthesia. Your surgeon will make incisions on both sides of the cleft, turning down the dark pink outer portion. Your surgeon will then pull together the skin and muscle of the lip and restore muscle function as well as a “cupid’s bow” shape. Sutures will be inset and a temporary nasal stent will be placed.

Cleft lip incisions 1Cleft lip incision 2

Your surgeon performs incisions on each side of the split
and pulls the tissue together to repair the cleft lip
.

The cleft palate repair can be completed on children as young as 9-18 months and takes 2-3 hours to complete. Your surgeon will make incisions on both sides of the separation and move the tissue flaps to the center of the mouth, joining the muscle to improve eating and speech functions. Sutures will then be used to close the incisions.

Cleft palate incision 1Cleft palate incision 2
The tissue flaps are moved to the center of the mouth,

joining the muscle together to repair the cleft palate.

What Should I Expect After Surgery?

After undergoing cleft lip repair, children can immediately resume bottle-feeding with a crosscut nipple. After several days, the sutures will be removed. For about two weeks, the child should not play with pacifiers or pointed-edge toys and Velcro immobilizers may be used to prevent injury. Until the scar has matured, direct sun exposure should be avoided. The exposed sutures should be cleansed with cotton swabs and antibiotic ointment.

Following a cleft palate repair, an oral fluid will be given to the patient as soon as he/she regains consciousness. Effective analgesia will be provided through a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug. Arm restraints may be necessary to prevent self-inflicted injury.

Possible complications and risks from cleft lip and palate repair may include hemorrhage, respiratory obstruction, hanging palate and dental malpositioning and malalignment.

Learn More About Cleft Lip and Palate Repair in Kansas City

If you or a young family member suffers from cleft lip or cleft palate, contact the plastic surgery team at the University of Kansas. The doctors would be happy to discuss repair options with you.