Surgical Treatment for Cleft Palate
A cleft palate is usually repaired between 9 and 12 months of age. The plastic surgeon carefully puts the tissue and muscles in a better position so that the opening between the nose and mouth is closed and the roof of the mouth is rebuilt. Incisions are made on both sides of the opening, and specialized ﬂap techniques are used to reposition the muscles and the palate. The repair is then stitched closed, usually in the middle of the roof of the mouth, so that normal feeding and speech development can occur and growth can continue throughout the child’s life. Surgery for cleft palate is performed under general anesthesia. Children are observed overnight in the hospital and remain there until they are comfortable and can drink sufficient fluids, which is usually a night or two.
The goal of surgery is to create a palate that works well for feeding and speech. Most children will have good speech after palate repair. Some children, however, may need further surgery on the muscles of the palate or the muscles of the throat to achieve normal speech.