Cleft lip and cleft palate
(orofacial clefts) –are congenital
birth defects that occur due to
the improper formation of the lip
and mouth during the early stages
of a baby’s development.
Cleft lip and cleft palate (orofacial clefts) –are congenital birth defects that occur due to the improper formation of the lip and mouth during the early stages of a baby’s development. During the first six to eight weeks, tissue grows from different areas of the baby’s head and eventually meets to fully form the facial features. If the tissue does not fuse properly, the result is a cleft, or a gap.
Because the lip and palate form separately, a cleft lip and cleft palate can occur independently or together. The precise cause of orofacial clefts is unknown, however it is thought to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Orofacial clefts can result in feeding and dental problems, speech impediments and, if not corrected in a timely manner, psychological effects. Fortunately, both defects can be treated early and effectively with surgery.
What is a Cleft Lip?
Affecting about 1 in 700 babies, a cleft lip is one of the most common birth defects in the United States. It is characterized by an opening in the upper lip, which can vary in size: from a small slit to a large gap that extends into the nose. The gap typically occurs on one or both sides of the lip and, very rarely, in the middle of the lip.
What is a Cleft Palate?
A cleft palate is an opening in the roof of the mouth, which creates a connection between the mouth and the nose. A cleft palate increases the risk of chronic ear infections.
Both cleft lip and palate are best treated within the first year of a baby’s life. Depending on the nature of the cleft lip and/or palate, it may take several years of treatment and multiple surgeries, including rhinoplasty, to fully address all of the issues.
During a surgery, Dr. Morin will repair and close the cleft lip and/or palate. The basic repair of a cleft lip involves rotating and advancing the divided segments and suturing the lip skin and muscle. To fix a cleft palate, Dr. Morin will connect the palatal muscles and reposition the soft tissues.
In most cases, nose surgery will be needed at some point. When a child reaches about 15 years a cleft lip rhinoplasty can be performed to reshape the nose. Occasionally more complicated nose surgeries will also be required later in life.
Surgical care of children and younger patients demands a unique attentiveness and sensitivity. Dr. Morin is a board-certified plastic surgeon specially trained in pediatric plastic surgery. Younger patients pose a particular challenge and require a systematic surgical plan. In the case of orofacial clefts, Dr. Morin understands that surgical skill and timing are essential for the successful treatment of the conditions.
His expertise in repairing cleft lip and palate has taken him on humanitarian surgical missions to the Philippines Guatemala, Colombia, Hatti, and Mauritius, where he has performed reconstructive procedures on infants, children and young adults, ages 6 months to 18 years.