Cleft Lift and Palate Repair: Basics to Know


Cleft lip and palate repair is a surgical procedure to restore facial and oral malfunctions of a baby. In pregnancy, if the tissue in the baby’s mouth or lip area is not enough to join together properly, the baby is likely to have cleft lip and palates-two sides of the upper lip and the roof of the mouth are split or separated. Because the lip and the palate don’t develop together, it is possible for any baby to have either clef lip or clef palate, or both types of malformation.


A good candidate for cleft lip and palate repair include:

  • Child with abnormal lips and mouth development
  • Parents have optimistic and realistic outlook toward the surgery
  • Cleft lip repairs are mostly performed between 2 to 6 months old childern and cleft palate repairs are generally for 9 to 12 months
  • Child without other medical conditions include heart or lung disorder


Before giving a cleft and palate repair surgery to a baby, the surgeon will offer the parent basic information about the details of the procedure, the alternatives and the most likely risks or potential complications.

Possible risks may include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Poor healing of incisions
  • Irregular healing of scars including shortening, thickening or overgrowth
  • Residual irregularities and asymmetries in the lip or nose
  • Anesthesia risks
  • Respiratory problems after surgery
  • Allergies to tape, suture materials and glues, topical preparations or injected agents
  • Damage to deeper structures—such as nerves, blood vessels, muscles and auditory canal can occur and may be temporary or permanent
  • Possibility of revisional surgery


Costs for the surgery vary greatly, depending on the type and severity of the defect. the type of procedure used, the surgeon’s experience, and the geographic location of hospital.

Cleft repair costs may include:

  • Surgeon’s fee
  • Hospital or surgical facility costs
  • Anesthesia fees
  • Prescriptions for medication
  • Medical tests
  • Post-surgery feeding supplies

Insurance is likely to cover the procedure, but an additional treatment is not included-an orthodontic treatment required to improve the teeth positioning after the cleft repair surgery.


Parents will likely need to schedule a series of appointments before the surgery. And as some professional surgeons recommend, parents should also help their babies wear an orthodontic device. This device will help shape mouth, nose and lip to improve the surgical outcome. Before going to surgery, parents must stop feeding their babies and have them drink a lot during the day. Besides, parents need to tell doctors whether their children have latex allergies, or a severe reaction to latex.

How it is done

Performing a cleft lip and palate repair procedure needs four steps:

  • Anesthesia

Medications such as intravenous sedation or general anesthesia are given to keep the baby calm during the surgical procedures.

  • The incision

On either side of the cleft, incisions are made. Then, baps of skin, muscle and intraoral tissue are created.

  • Closing the incisions

The doctor will use removable or absorbable sutures to close the incision.

  • See the results

Scars are inevitably left in the baby’s upper lip and nose. However, these scars will fade overtime. And the baby will continue to grow abilities and improve normal functions as time passes by.


After the procedure, parents can take their babies home during the day and should send them back to the hospital for one night.

While at home, parents should strictly follow some feeding restrictions for a week or more, for example:

  • Feeding babies with liquids only for the first 24 hours
  • Using a cup or other vessels to feed babies with water instead of nursing or bottle feeding

In general, the wounds are completely healed in around 6 weeks. It should be known that cleft lip surgery will leave a small scar between the upper lip and the nose.

Keywords: cleft and palate repair.

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.