Parents generally request the specific “care path” for their child so that expectations for cleft lip and cleft palate repair plastic surgery can be defined. These treatment protocols vary between centers and among surgeons; there is no absolute right or wrong. Nevertheless, we believe that any protocol should deliver a clear vision of care from infancy to adulthood.

For information specific to your child, request a consultation online or call us at (469) 375-3838.

Our usual sequence of care is as follows:

Age Treatment
Birth to 3 mos presurgical orthodontics
3 mos cleft lip and soft palate repair
18 mos hard palate repair (columella lengthening)
4 yrs pharyngeal flap (if needed)
7-8 yrs alveolar bone graft/orthodontics
14-16 yrs orthodontics/orthognathics/rhinoplasty

Many parents are very concerned about the presence of scars. Unfortunately, all cleft lip repairs leave visible scars. Every effort is made to keep scars to a minimum and to place scars so that they are easily concealed.

Secondary (or “redo”) surgeries at any stage may be necessary. Our occurrence of secondary surgery is less than 5%.

After Surgery Care

The goal after surgery is to protect the new repair and stitches. For this reason there will be some changes in the child’s feeding, positioning, and activity for a short time. Remember, these are only temporary!

Infants will not be able to suck on a nipple/bottle or pacifier for 10 days after surgery. A syringe with a short piece of soft rubber tubing will be used for feeding. Older children may drink from a cup. It is helpful if the child has practiced drinking from the syringe before surgery. As soon as the infant awakes from anesthesia and acts hungry they may be offered a feeding of clear liquid (Pedialyte, sugar water, apple juice). When this is tolerated, they may resume their regular formula. Infants who have already begun cereal or baby foods may be offered diluted feedings with the syringe. Older children will be on a blenderized diet that pours easily from a cup.

There may be some discomfort as the child swallows so they may not drink much the first evening. This is why IV fluids are continued until their drinking improves. Pain medicine will also be given to relieve distress.

A child who has had a cleft lip repair should be positioned on their side or back to keep them from rubbing their face in the bed. A child with only a cleft palate repair may sleep on their stomach.

It is important to keep the stitches clean and without crusting. Parents are shown how to clean the suture line and apply ointment while in the hospital. This will continue until the stitches are removed about a week later.

It is important to keep the child from hurting the incision or putting hands or toys in their mouth. For this reason they will wear arm restraints (NoNo’s) which keep them from bending their elbows. These are also used for 10 days after surgery.

Children usually spend one night in the hospital and are discharged when they begin to drink an adequate amount of fluids. Parents are encouraged to stay with their child and participate in their care. Chair beds are available in the rooms for overnight sleeping.