Cleft Lip and Palate Care and Services | Loyola Medicine

Cleft Lip and Palate Program

Advanced Surgical Techniques to Repair Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate

Loyola Medicine’s cleft lip and palate program is comprised of a multidisciplinary team of doctors, surgeons and medical staff. Our team is experienced in treating patients with cleft lip and palate, as well as the ear, nose and throat problems often associated with this condition.

Cleft lip and cleft palate are the most common congenital craniofacial anomaly, which  occur when a child’s lip or mouth does not  form completely. The defect’s severity can range from a small notch in the lip to a groove that runs into the roof of the mouth. It can occur on one or both sides of the mouth and sometimes appears in combination with other craniofacial abnormalities.

In addition to visible deformity, children with head and facial anomalies may have other medical issues, including:

  • Airway obstructions
  • Breathing and feeding difficulties
  • Dental problems
  • Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing)
  • Fluid buildup in the middle ear, which can lead to sinusitis or hearing loss
  • Language and speech disorders
  • Sleep apnea

Why Choose Loyola for Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate?

At Loyola, we take a multidisciplinary approach to providing caring, individualized treatments for children with cleft lip and palate problems. We offer world-class care through a collaboration between your child’s medical team and Loyola’s dental professionals, who bring expertise and vast experience caring for cleft lip and palate.

Your child will benefit from the expertise of a team of specialists, including:

  • Audiologists
  • Ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialists or pediatric otolaryngologists
  • Geneticists
  • Nurses
  • Oral surgeons
  • Orthodontists and dentists
  • Craniofacial/Plastic and reconstructive surgeons
  • Psychologists or therapists
  • Social workers
  • Speech pathologists

How is Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate Diagnosed?

Cleft lip and palate is usually diagnosed at birth, although sometimes the cleft is identified  on a prenatal ultrasound. The goal of Loyola’s cleft lip and palate specialists is to provide a diagnosis and comprehensive treatment plan for your child as soon as possible.

For patients who come to Loyola with airway difficulties, speech problems or swallowing disorders, flexible nasal endoscopy and laryngoscopy are available. This allows your child’s doctor to evaluate the palate closure, vocal folds and other important anatomical structures in order to recommend the proper treatment.

How is Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate Treated?

If your child is diagnosed with cleft lip or cleft palate at Loyola, surgery is often recommended in order to improve your child’s ability to eat, speak, breathe and hear—in addition to restoring a more normal appearance and function. Early intervention is likely to provide the most positive outcome. Surgery to repair a cleft lip usually is done when a child is three months old; cleft palate repair is done when a child is nine to 12 months old. 

Loyola Medicine is one of the only centers in the Chicago area and around the country currently offering nasoalveolar molding (NAM), a pre-surgical technique that reshapes the gums, lip and nostrils in a baby who has a large cleft. When your baby is a few weeks old, he or she is fitted with a custom plate that molds the structures of the face. In a few weeks, this painless technique reduces the number and complexity of surgeries a child needs to correct a cleft in his or her lifetime.

Because cleft lip and palate can be accompanied by other deformities and functional problems, secondary surgeries and treatments may be needed to help the child—either before or after the main surgery. These may include:

  • Adenoidectomy
  • Bronchoscopy
  • Cleft rhinoplasty
  • Bone grafting
  • Dental restoration
  • Fistula closure
  • Laryngoscopy
  • Lip revision
  • Orthodontic treatments
  • Placement of ear tubes (myringotomy and tympanostomy)
  • Septoplasty
  • Speech rehabilitation
  • Surgery for velopharyngeal dysfunction
  • Surgery to repair jaw deformity
  • Tonsillectomy​​

Your child’s doctor will tailor a plan for his or her unique needs and will weigh the options with you. In addition to providing comprehensive treatment to improve your child’s quality of life, our goal is to provide education and support for your child and your family through diagnosis, treatment and recovery.