Cleft Lip

Your child’s cleft lip and palate repair

Cleft lip (cheiloschisis) and cleft palate (palatoschisis) are among the most common birth defects affecting children in India.

The incomplete formation of the upper lip (cleft lip) or roof of the mouth (cleft palate) can occur individually, or both defects may occur together. The conditions can vary in severity and may involve one or both sides of the face.


A cleft, or separation of the upper lip and/or the roof of the mouth, occurs very early in the development of your unborn child. During fetal development, certain components of the upper lip and roof of the mouth fail to form normally. Cleft lip and cleft palate repair is a type of plastic surgery to correct this abnormal development both to restore function and to restore a more normal appearance.

Most clefts can be repaired through specialized plastic surgery techniques, improving your child’s ability to eat, speak, hear and breathe, and to restore a more normal appearance and function.


A team of specialists can help

Early intervention by a team of specialists to evaluate your child is essential in cleft lip and/or cleft palate repair. The team can work together to define a course of treatment, including surgical repair of the cleft, speech rehabilitation and dental restoration. These specialists may include a:

  • Plastic surgeon
  • Pediatrician
  • Pediatric dentist
  • Otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat specialist)
  • Auditory or hearing specialist
  • Speech pathologist
  • Genetic counselor
  • Social worker

What happens during cleft lip and palate surgery?

Step 1 – Anesthesia

Medications are administered for your child’s comfort during the surgical procedures. The choices include intravenous sedation and general anesthesia. Your doctor will recommend the best choice for your child.

Step 2 – The incision

The goal of cleft lip surgery is to close the separation in the lip and to provide a more normal function, structure and appearance to the upper lip. Incisions are made on either side of the cleft to create flaps of tissue that are then drawn together and stitched to close the cleft.


The repair of a cleft palate requires careful repositioning of tissue and muscles to close the cleft and rebuild the roof of the mouth. Incisions are made on either side of the cleft and specialized flap techniques are used to reposition muscle and the hard and soft components of the palate. The repair is then stitched closed, generally at the midline of the roof of the mouth, providing enough length of the palate to allow for normal feeding and speech development, and continued growth throughout life.


Step 3 – Closing the incisions

Cleft lip and palate incisions can be closed with removable or absorbable sutures.


A special note: It is important to understand that while a cleft may be surgically repaired in a single plastic surgery procedure, treating a child born with a cleft continues through adolescence and sometime even adulthood. As a child grows, secondary plastic surgery procedures to improve function and appearance may be required.

Step 4 – See the results

The resulting external scars of a cleft repair are generally positioned in the normal contours of the upper lip and nose. Over time, these will fade and your child’s ability to grow and function normally will continue to improve.