What will my child's 'Health Professionals Team' comprise of?
It is important that several health professionals with different expertise are involved to assess and monitor your child's progress as he/she grows up. The team of Health Professional for surgical correction and rehabilitation of a child with Cleft Lip will include:
How do I prepare my child for Cleft Lip operation?
Your child will be hospitalized the night before for pre-operative assessment like blood and urine testing, and may be a chest x-ray. You will be instructed not to feed anything to your child for at least 10 hours before the Cleft Lip operation. Also make sure that your child does not have any viral infections like flu, cough, cold or diarrhea.
What does the procedure for repair of Cleft Lip involve?
The surgery for the repair of Cleft Lip is usually done in the first year of life, preferably around 10 months of age. Cleft Lip repair is performed under general anesthesia. The surgeon will make an incision on both the sides of the cleft up to and into the nose. The dark pink outer portion of the separation, which includes the skin and the muscle, will be pulled down, the skin of the lip will be apposed and stitched together thus closing the gap in your child's lip. The surgery for Cleft Lip is performed as a single procedure, which also closes the nostril deformity. Bilateral Cleft Lip sometimes requires two surgeries. Depending on how extensive the birth defect is, surgery for Cleft Lip can take anywhere from 2 - 3 hours.
What is the recovery period like after Cleft Lip surgery?
Your child will feel some pain and soreness following the Cleft Lip surgery. He / she will be irritable and may require some medication to calm down and relieve the pain and soreness which commonly occurs following the operation to repair Cleft Lip. Your surgeon might prescribe antibiotics to minimize the chances of infection while in the hospital. He / she will provide you with instructions on feeding and general care of the baby during the crucial couple of days after surgery for Cleft Lip. Your child may have to be put in restraints to make sure he / she does not rub the area of the face that has stitches. Your child will be hospitalized for about 4 - 5 days, the stitches need not be opened as they dissolve on it's own after a few days.
What is the outcome of Cleft Lip surgery?
Outcome of Cleft Lip surgery is quite good. Most commonly the defect can be corrected in a single operation, very seldom a second operation is required. If the cleft (gap) is extensive and cannot be closed in one surgery, then the operation is performed in two stages. However, there will be unevenness of the upper lip and a faded but a visible scar will be there that your child will have to live with for the rest of his / her life.
Benefits of surgical repair of Cleft Lip
The team approach to correcting Cleft Lip and other problems associated with it has several fold benefits. Symmetry or balance of facial features is restored to a great extent but not completely. The surgeons have mastered sophisticated techniques that have improved the success rate of surgery for Cleft Lip many fold. If the surgery to repair Cleft Lip is performed in the first year of life, chances are that ability to feed properly; talk, facial growth and development of social skills will be less problematic in the years to come.
Risks of surgical repair of Cleft Lip
Alternatives to surgical repair of Cleft Lip
There are none, your child can either live with the defect in the upper lip for the rest of his / her life or undergo the plastic surgery for Cleft Lip during the first year of life