Cleft lip, cleft palate or a combination of them occurs in one in 700 live births. A cleft is a fissure, opening or gap and is a developmental abnormality with some genetic predisposition. It is probably true to say that only in the third world would a cleft lip go unrepaired. The appearance of an unrepaired cleft lip is aesthetically unacceptable and extremely distressing for the child’s parents. In the case of cleft palate, there are also severe functional disorders including a potential speech impediment and the displacement of food into the nasal cavity. Timely repair and appropriate therapy can alleviate these problems.
In my capacity of Director of the Craniofacial Clinic at Harbor-UCLA, I have the privilege of treating infants with cleft lip and palate. I repair the lip at three months and the palate at one year. However, at the Clinic we keep cleft patients under review until they are 18 so that associated disorders may be treated appropriately. These include: nasal deformities; facial growth issues; dental and orthodontic problems as well as complications arising from the corrective surgery itself. Our Craniofacial team contains the specialists required to cover the spectrum of disorders and maintain continuity of care.