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Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

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Pediatric Cleft Lip and Palate

Cleft lip and palate are among the most common congenital deformities seen in children. Our first concern is the infant's ability to eat, which we ensure through the services of a speech therapist and, if necessary, a pediatric dentist.

The speech therapist instructs parents in the use of various nipples; if the child is unable to eat with a nipple, the pediatric dentist constructs an obturator to seal off the child's cleft palate to improve sucking ability.

Once your child is able to eat, we make preparations for lip surgery, which is usually done at 3 to 4 months of age. Before surgery, the dentist will fashion an obturator with one or two nasal prongs to help reshape the flip, nose and palatal bones. When pre-nasal alveolar molding is completed, the child will be ready for surgery, which normally takes 2 to 3 hours.

The next step is palate repair, which is usually completed at 9 to 12 months of age. Before surgery, we will check your child's hearing. For infants with persistent infection or fluid in their ears, an otolaryngologist will place ventilation tubes before surgery. Most children remain in the hospital for at least a day following surgery or until they are eating and drinking well.

Repair of the bony cleft in the child's gum is normally the next step in treatment. Surgery is scheduled at 7 to 12 years of age. Frequently, pre-surgical orthodontic work is necessary before bone grafting of the bony cleft. Bone for the graft is usually taken from the child's hip. Children typically stay in the hospital for one night after the surgery.

The final step in treatment for cleft lip and palate involves surgery on the nose and midface, which is usually done when children have completed their growth (age 14 to 16 for girls and 16 to 18 for boys). Preparation for surgery at the midface often involves several years of orthodontic treatment. Nasal surgery is normally done following the midface bone surgery.

Contact Us

University of Texas Health Science Center Professional Building
6410 Fannin, Suite 950
Houston, Texas 77030

Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery Clinic: (832) 325-7234
Texas Cleft-Craniofacial Team: (713) 500-7302

Office Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Monday-Friday except major holidays)