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Cleft Lip and Palate

Cleft lip and palate (CLP) is the most common facial defect in the UK, affecting one in 700 babies, but it varies according to your child’s ethnic group. A third of these babies have a cleft palate only and 10 per cent have either a cleft lip only or a submucous cleft (where the cleft is hidden in the roof of the mouth). Half of these babies have all three [1] [2] .

Here at the Portland we can offer consultations with a team of top experts highly skilled in the latest corrective surgery techniques .The world class team includes Professor Piet Haers, a consultant maxillofacial and cleft surgeon. at Guy’s and St Thomas’s Hospital in London.

Surgery to correct CLP is highly successful and leaves minimal scarring - but it’s only part of what we offer here. Although treatment for CLP starts when your child is a baby with corrective surgery – follow up orthodontic and speech assessment may be needed right up to the age of 18. Our multidisciplinary team is here for you every step of the way and includes a paediatrician, geneticist, cleft surgeon, ENT surgeon, orthodontist, dentist, oral surgeon, speech and language therapist, psychologist and nurse - so you can be sure all your child will have the best treatment possible for their condition.

CLP in depth

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 a baby’s development in the womb. A cleft lip and palate (CLP) can occur on one side or both sides. A child can suffer from a cleft lip, a cleft palate or even both. They can be detected on 20 week fetal scans.
It is possible that your baby maybe born with a cleft lip or palate but will otherwise be in perfect health. This is called non-syndromic. Sometimes, however these defects maybe part of a wider series of birth defects (syndromic).

Causes of CLP

Cleft lips and cleft palates are congenital defects that occur early in pregnancy. 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.

If one child in a family is born with a cleft or if a parent had a cleft then the risk that future siblings will have the same condition increase by increases by 2-4 per cent.

Health problems associated with CLP

Children with a cleft lip or cleft palate often experience other health concerns such as feeding difficulties, middle ear fluid build up (glue ear), hearing loss, and dental problems as well as development delay with their speech. The complex needs of these patients are managed by our multidisciplinary team of experts [3].

CLP Surgery

Cleft lips and cleft palates can be repaired through surgery and has a high success rate, leaving only minimal scars. Our surgeon works closely with 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[4].

For more information or to arrange an appointment please contact our Children's Enquiry Line on 020 7390 8020.

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