The Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery has extensive expertise in treating children with cleft lip and palate. Our plastic surgeons are highly specialized and each has pursued extensive training in the full spectrum of care of children with cleft lip and palate, enabling them to guide the care of these children from birth through adulthood.
A cleft lip or cleft palate (the roof of the mouth) is a condition in which parts of the lip and/or palate do not develop properly early in pregnancy. When there is a cleft lip present, often it can be seen on prenatal ultrasounds. Because an infant’s lips and palate develop separately, it is possible for a child to be born with a cleft lip only, cleft palate only, or both.
The Lurie Children's Difference
Our program is a collaborative effort led by plastic surgeons, and includes dedicated specialists from otolaryngology (ENT), speech pathology, orthodontics, pediatric dentistry, oral maxillofacial surgery, genetics, psychology and social services. This multidisciplinary model incorporates valuable expertise of the various specialists to provide outstanding comprehensive cleft care. In addition, patients and families have access to all specialties and resources throughout the Lurie Children’s network, when needed.
In addition to patient care, we are also committed to research. Lurie Children’s has initiated the Craniofacial Developmental Biology Laboratory at Stanley Manne Children's Research Institute, headed by Arun Gosain, MD, with a team of dedicated researchers. This research team includes doctors specializing in plastic surgery, and specialties of basic sciences that help them to understand the cause of craniofacial anomalies. Together, our team of surgeons, nurses and researchers are involved in several key national organizations dedicated to the treatment, care and causes of cleft lip and palate.
The American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association has recognized Lurie Children’s Cleft Lip and Palate/Craniofacial Team as an ACPA Approved Team. Learn more.
How Is Cleft Lip & Cleft Palate Treated?
If a diagnosis is made before birth through ultrasound, physicians will explain what to expect when the baby is born and how the condition is correctable.
Typically, a cleft lip is repaired surgically when a baby is between three and six months old, while a cleft palate is repaired at 11 to 13 months of age.
In all cleft lip and palate procedures, the Lurie Children’s team is committed to restoring the lip and palate to typical appearance and function.
Following surgery, providers will follow your child throughout their facial development from birth into the teenage years. After the first year of life, your child will have annual visits to the cleft team clinic.
Prenatal appointments with our Fetal Health specialists are available by physician referral or self-referral. To make an appointment call the fetal health coordinator at 312.227.4724 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. When scheduling to attend the bi-monthly cleft team clinic, please call 312.227.6250 and ask specifically for a cleft team clinic appointment. If you have any questions about scheduling please call 312.227.6250 and ask to speak with Kristyn Kessler, BSN, RN.
Our individual doctor appointments are at Lurie Children’s. Our bi-monthly cleft team clinic is located at the Lincoln Park Outpatient Center on the ninth floor. Find information about parking and directions on our website. Please let us know ahead of time if you have difficulties with transportation to your appointment, and we will help facilitate your travel. If you are coming from out of town, check our Visitors Guide for information about traveling to Lurie Children’s.
What to Expect When You Visit
Once the diagnosis of a cleft lip and/or palate is made, Lurie Children's plastic surgeons counsel parents about the medical and surgical care involved. When the diagnosis is made during an antenatal ultrasound, physicians are available to educate parents about what to expect when the baby is born and to reassure them that it is correctable after birth.
At this time, clinicians instruct parents so they are prepared when the baby is born. Parents are given special bottles designed to easily feed their baby and taught how to use them. Our nursing and social work colleagues are available to provide practical information about navigating the system. After the birth, our clinical coordinator contacts the parents and expedites a feeding evaluation soon after discharge from the birth hospital. After the feeding evaluation, the infant returns for an appointment with the plastic surgeon for a detailed examination. Families are given a timeline of care based on that exam, and are often seen by the orthodontist to fabricate a retainer-like appliance to start realigning the cleft lip and palate.
After your child is examined and the plan of care is established, our multidisciplinary team will follow your child throughout their facial development from birth into the teenage years. After the first year of life, your child will have annual visits to the cleft team clinic. The team visit approach streamlines the evaluation and treatment process, quickly connecting you with the best specialists to manage your child’s condition. Each treatment plan is customized for the child as we consider the medical and developmental needs of the child, as well as the needs of the family.