Cleft lip and cleft palate are conditions that affect the lips and mouths of many children. Clefts are unusual openings from bones and soft tissues not forming properly, typically in early pregnancy. A split in the upper lip is called cleft lip, and an opening in the roof of the mouth is called cleft palate. Cleft lip and palate can occur on one or both sides of the lip or mouth. Babies can have a cleft lip, a cleft palate, or both.
Dr. Mehra and his team provide all necessary support your baby will need to address a cleft lip, cleft palate, or both. When possible, detecting a cleft lip or palate in the womb helps families plan for treatment needed after birth. By parternering with top craniofacial and plastic surgeons at Advocate Children’s Hospital, Dr. Mehra and his staff help families arrange for the most up to date surgical care to repair a cleft lip and/or palate.
Dr. Mehra's comittement to collaborating with only the the most trusted specialists allows families under his care to focus on their baby, knowing that he has long established relationships with the leading experts in the field of neonatal care.
Why clefts form is not fully understood, though research suggests they can result from a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Risk factors may include:
In some cases, a baby may have a submucousal cleft palate, which is frequently hard to see. The split occurs in the muscles of the soft palate, with the mouth’s lining covering the cleft. Signs and symptoms of a submucousal cleft palate include:
Doctors usually see cleft lip and palate before birth, often as early as 14 weeks, using 3D ultrasound. Diagnosing a cleft lip or cleft palate prior to birth allows Dr. Mehra to help famiies coordinate care for their baby before delivery, making the post partum time less stressful for all involved. Families may also be referred to a genetics counselor for consultation and evalutaion. Dr. Mehra and his team will also connect families wiht feeding and oral-motor specialitsts to meet your baby's feeding needs before and after corrective surgery.
Cleft lip and palate can cause challenges because of unusual bone and tissue development in the mouth. Repairs can ease these issues but may not completely resolve them. As your child gets older, specialists at Advocate Children’s Hospital can provide ongoing care. Your child may need treatment and therapies for challenges such as:
Treatment for clefts includes surgery to close the opening and improve your child’s ability to speak, eat and swallow. Therapies to help your child eat, speak and hear well are also provided.
We coordinate your child’s treatment with pediatric craniofacial and plastic surgeons who specialize in cleft palate and cleft lip repair. Surgical intervention is typically recommended at specific ages:
Some children may need surgery to place ear tubes that help prevent fluid from building up in their ears. Our pediatric ENTs (ear, nose and throat specialists) have advanced training in ear tube surgery to reduce the risk of hearing loss. At our pediatric Cleft and CraniofacialClinic, surgeons, speech-language pathologists, audiologists and other providers offer specialized surgery and therapies.
While this is undoubetdly an overwhelming time for families facing this diagnosis, Dr. Mehra and his team are highly experienced in supporting families and babies as they navigate the many decisions ahead.