Cleft lip is a condition in which a birth defect causes an unnatural opening in the upper lip between the mouth and nose. Not only does this cause facial disfigurement but also makes feeding difficult. In cleft palate, the mouth and nasal cavity, normally separated by the palate, are open to each other. Left unrepaired, the cleft palate will affect feeding and cause speech difficulties, hearing loss and abnormal dental development. An initial consultation is usually held with a qualified plastic surgeon within hours or days after the birth of a baby with these conditions. At as early as three months, an infant may begin to have procedures to close the cleft lip, improving appearance as well as function. Cleft lip repair is usually performed in a hospital setting under general anesthesia. There are several different techniques for repairing the cleft lip. An experienced surgeon can decide which is the more appropriate means of rearranging muscle and skin for closure. A resultant permanent scar should be expected; however, it should become less prominent over time. At twelve to eighteen months, surgery is normally performed to begin repair of the cleft palate. This procedure provides for more natural speech development, and allows for normal growth and appearance. Closing of the front of the palate may be done in conjunction with the cleft lip repair in cases where both conditions exist. At a later time, the entire palate may then be closed to prepare the palate for speech. This surgery is also performed in a hospital under general anesthesia. The patient will normally have some swelling, discoloration, and soreness after the surgery. This can be controlled with medication. Sutures in the cleft lip repair may be removed after four and five days. Any palate packing will also be removed by the fourth or fifth day. Care must be taken to follow instructions on feeding and diet to allow proper healing of the palate. Additional surgery may be needed to correct distortion of the nose and improve nasal function. It may be done in the child’s early years or in mid-teenage years after nose has reached maximum growth. The surgeons and staff at The Face & Body Center are available to discuss any questions you may have by calling 866-939-4999 or 939-9999 in the Jackson Metro Area.