Dr. Stephen Schendel
Plastic, Maxillofacial and Sleep Surgery

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Cleft Lip Repair

Cleft Lip Repair in Palo Alto, CA

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A cleft lip and cleft palate are congenital facial deformations that occur during pregnancy when the baby is still developing. A cleft lip represents a physical separation, or split, of the upper lip that can extend to or beyond the bottom of the nose. A cleft palate involves a split in the roof of the mouth. These conditions can occur on either side of the mouth, and may develop alone or together. Advances in medical technology have made it possible to restore a natural appearance and normal function to the mouth and lip with oral and facial reconstructive surgery. Menlo Park plastic and maxillofacial surgeon, Dr. Steven Schendel, is a cleft lip and cleft palate repair specialist and performs both cheiloplasty and palatoplasty. During the initial consultation these surgeries will be discussed in detail and a treatment plan will outline the surgical recommendations that will produce the most natural outcome.

Cheiloplasty and Palatoplasty

Cheiloplasty is a reconstructive surgery that repairs a cleft or split lip. Palatoplasty is a similar surgery that repairs a cleft palate Cheiloplasty and palatoplasty improve the appearance of the face as well as prevent problems with breathing, eating, speaking, hearing, and the development of teeth. A chelioplasty is generally performed in the first few months after birth, when the baby is at least 10 pounds. A palatoplasty is usually performed when the baby is between 6 and 18 months old.

Surgical Technique

In cleft lip surgery, incisions are made on each side of the cleft and the lip is sewn together to form a normal and symmetrical upper mouth. The muscles in the upper lip are also aligned so the lips are able to function properly. Similarly, in cleft palate surgery, incisions are made on each side of the cleft and the three layers of the roof of the mouth are sewn together. The muscles are aligned for proper use during speech, eating, and swallowing. During a palatoplasty, the nose and mouth cavities are also separated to allow normal face growth and tooth development.  A second surgery may be needed or wanted for further repairs or to improve appearance.

During/After Surgery

Cheiloplasty and palatoplasty are performed as an inpatient surgery in an accredited surgical facility under general anesthesia. Because of the young age of the patients and the nature of the surgery, our patients usually stay for 1-3 nights following the procedure. After surgery, an IV is used to feed and hydrate the patient until the patient is able to drink normally. Medication can be used to manage any pain and discomfort. Arm restraints may be used to keep the patient from scratching or irritating the stitches, which could cause infection or disrupt healing. Patients can expect to have bruising and swelling around the mouth and nose that will heal within 2-3 weeks. The results following this surgery are life changing, especially for parents. Over time, a very light scar will remain, but the long-term outcome results in a very normal facial appearance.

Expected Cost

Each cheiloplasty and palatoplasty procedure can cost between $5,000-$10,000. Insurance usually covers the cost of treatment, but our billing coordinators will verify all coverage and this will be discussed during the treatment consultation. There are also several groups that provide financial assistance to those who need cleft lip or cleft palate repair.

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Average Cost  
$5,000 - $10,000
Recovery Time  
2-3 Weeks
Average Procedure Time  
Post-op Follow-up  
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Cheiloplasty/Palatoplasty FAQs

What Causes This?

There is no clear cause of why a cleft lip or palate develops before a baby is born and there are no preventative measures.  Each year in America, almost 7,000 babies are born with a cleft lip or palate.  A cleft lip or palate does not mean that your child will have other mental or physical problems.

Future Problems?

Children with a cleft lip or palate are prone to hearing problems, so regular visits to an ear, nose, and throat specialist are recommended. Speech problems are also common, but can be resolved with speech therapy. As teeth come in, a dentist or orthodontist should check them so any needed corrections are treated early.

How Bad is the Scar?

The scar will fade, but still be visible. When possible, incisions and stitches are made along existing face lines to minimize noticeability. To prevent further irritation, sunscreen should always be used on the scar when outside.

Related Procedures

*Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary from person to person. Images may contain models.