Cleft Palate Repair: What to Expect

At Brooks Plastic Surgery, our pediatric craniofacial specialist Dr. Christopher Brooks helps children in Central and South Florida born with a cleft palate live normal lives, giving them the ability to have better breathing, hearing, language, and speech development. 

Although about 7,000 babies in the United States are born with this birth defect every year, researchers still don’t understand the exact cause cleft palates. Scientists believe a combination of genes and environmental factors result in this condition in which the tissue that makes up the roof of the mouth doesn’t join completely.

If you and your baby are preparing for cleft palate repair, take a moment to learn what you need to know about this complex procedure. 

Cleft palate 101

Your baby is diagnosed with a cleft palate when they’re born with an opening, or cleft, in the roof of their mouth. This opening creates a hole between the nose and the mouth and can cause problems with dentition, eating and drinking, speech, and hearing. 

This birth defect develops during the first trimester of pregnancy when the bones and tissues of your baby’s mouth should come together. At this time, the roof of the mouth should come together and the nose, upper jaw, and upper lip should form. 

Although the exact cause of cleft palate isn’t well understood, and genetics are believed to play a role, researchers have found a higher correlation with cleft palate and certain factors, including:

Early treatment for cleft palate, usually between 6-9 months, is best, since it can cause trouble with feeding and normal development. The only treatment option is cleft palate surgery. When performed by a pediatric craniofacial surgery expert, your child’s prognosis is good.

Preparing for cleft palate surgery

You’ll begin preparing your baby two weeks before the cleft palate surgery by making sure you don’t give your child any aspirin or ibuprofen. This reduces the chances of your baby developing bleeding problems after the surgery.

The day before your child’s procedure, you’ll be given specific food and drink instructions including when to stop nursing or bottle feeding and how to handle any prescription medications your baby requires. Your team will also ask about any new health developments, such as exposure to viral infections, and give you instructions on what to do when you arrive for surgery.

During cleft palate surgery

The cleft palate surgery involves our team of specialists who work together to ensure a successful outcome for your baby. Once your baby is asleep and resting comfortably under anesthesia, Dr. Brooks places a device in your child’s mouth to keep it open during the surgery. 

He then makes incisions on both sides of the palate and loosens the tissue attached to the bone to allow it to stretch. He also cuts along the gums so the palate tissue can be moved toward the middle of the roof of the mouth. 

Next, Dr. Brooks stitches the inner and outer layers of nasal tissue to close the opening between the mouth and nose. The palatal muscles are put in the correct position to allow for better eating, swallowing, and speaking. 

A part of the palate is left open to allow room for your baby’s jaw, mouth, and palate to grow. 

After cleft palate surgery

Once your child’s procedure is complete, they’ll likely stay in the hospital for a few days for monitoring and to help with pain medication and infection prevention. The stitches Dr. Brooks put in place will dissolve after several days.

You may notice some bloody drainage from the nose and mouth as well as some swelling or bruising at the surgical site. These will resolve in the days after surgery. Dr. Brooks meets with you to support your child’s recovery as well as answer any questions you may have. 

Expert care for cleft palate

The best outcome for your child’s cleft palate involves many hands, from an audiologist who checks for hearing problems to a pediatric dentist and orthodontist who evaluate dental issues to the pediatric craniofacial surgeon who corrects the cleft palate.

As an experienced pediatric craniofacial surgeon, Dr. Brooks participates on two cleft teams in Central Florida and South Florida at the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital. When your child is his patient, the best treatment is never out of reach. 

Contact Brooks Plastic Surgery in Hollywood, Florida, to set up a consultation with Dr. Brooks about your child’s cleft palate care. Rest assured knowing that with our connections to expert teams in Florida, your child’s treatment is in good hands.

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