Cleft lip


Cleft lip is an opening of the upper lip.  In most cases, a cleft palate is also present. A cleft lip can be mild or severe. It can present as anything from a small indent in the lip (incomplete), to a wide gap in the lip all the way into the nose (complete). If the cleft only occurs on one side of the lip, it is known as a unilateral cleft. If it occurs on both sides of the lip, it is known as a bilateral cleft.  Cleft lip is caused by a breakdown  in the developmental process in weeks 4-7 of pregnancy. The causes of cleft lip are unknown but probably include genetic factors. There are no known pure environmental causes.  This means that it is very unlikely that clefts are caused by something the mother did or didn’t do during pregnancy.  Some forms of cleft occur in families, but most are random.

Cleft lip and palate are very treatable problems.  Children do very well.  Ideally, children with cleft lip and palate are seen and treated through a craniofacial team.  Our team at Primary Children’s Medical Center is recognized by the American Cleft Palate Association as a center of excellence.  Our surgeons and nurses have extensive experience in treatment of patients with clefts and cleft associated problems.  Some of the common problems include:

  1. Speech problems

  2. Obstructive sleep apnea

  3. Frequent ear infections

  4. Facial growth problems

  5. Dental/Orthodontic problems

  6. Feeding issues

These issues are all treatable but require an orchestrated approach.  For information on Cleft Palate Teams, click here.  For a discussion of surgical repair, click here.

To contact Dr. Warnock with email questions, click here.


Caring for Cleft Lip

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