Professor Piet J.J Haers | Consultant Maxillofacial and Cleft Surgeon | The Portland Hospital
A cleft is an opening in the lip, the roof of the mouth or the soft tissue towards the back of the mouth. Cleft lips and palates happen when there is not proper closure of the facial structure during growth of a fetus. A cleft lip and palate can occur on one side or both sides. A child can suffer from a cleft lip, a cleft palate or even both.
Cleft lips and palates can occur on their own (non-syndromic) or are sometimes part of a wider series of birth defects (syndromic).Cleft lips and cleft palates are congenital defects that occur early in embryonic development cycle. Some scientists believe a combination of genetic and environmental factors may play a part, such as maternal illness, drugs or malnutrition. The parts of the face and mouth generally develop separately, but ordinarily come together in the early stages of a fetal life. If for some reason the development process is interrupted, the fusing may not take place or only partially develop.
Approximately half of all affected babies are born with a cleft palate, a quarter have a cleft lip and a quarter have a cleft lip and palate. A cleft lip or combined cleft lip and palate are more common in boys, but cleft palate on its own is more common in girls. If one child in a family is born with a cleft or if a parent had a cleft then the risk increases by 2-4% that future children in the family will suffer from the same defect. Cleft lips and cleft palates occur in approximately 1 per 500-700 births, the ratio varying considerably across geographic areas or ethnic groupings. (Source: World Health Organization International Collaborative Research on Craniofacial Anomalies)
Many scientists are researching and looking at possible methods to prevent cleft lips and palates. One finding, according to research studies, is that mothers who take multivitamins regularly containing folic acid before conception and during the first two months of pregnancy may reduce their risk of giving birth to a baby with a cleft.
Children with a cleft lip or cleft palate often experience other health concerns such as feeding difficulties, middle ear fluid buildup, hearing loss, and dental problems as well as development delay with their speech.. The complex needs of these patients are managed by a multidisciplinary team of health professionals which may include a paediatrician, geneticist, cleft surgeon, ENT surgeon, orthodontist, dentist, oral surgeon, speech and language therapist, psychologist, nurse.
Cleft lips and cleft palates can be repaired through surgery. Cleft lip and palate surgery provides excellent results with a high success rate and minimal scarring. The surgeon works closely with a child's parents to choose the best timing for surgery for the child. Most surgeons agree that a cleft lip should be repaired by the time a baby is 3 months old. To repair the partition of mouth and nose as early as possible, a cleft palate generally is repaired between the ages of 9 and 12 months. Any surgical procedure is obviously dependent upon a child's general health and the nature of the cleft lip or cleft palate.
A young patient of Professor Piet Haers, Jake successfully underwent cleft lip surgery at 4 months old and then had a cleft palate operation when he was 9 months old, his father James commented:
“Professor Piet Haers fixed Jake's smile and did an amazing job, most professionally and delivered what he said he would. Thank you Piet Haers for all you've done for Jake and our family, we'll be forever in your debt.”
Consultations with Professor Piet Haers, Consultant Maxillofacial and Cleft Surgeon, are available at The Portland Hospital call 01483 207315 to arrange an appointment.