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What is cleft lip repair?

Cleft Lip Repair

Cleft lip repair, also called cheiloplasty, is surgery to correct a cleft lip. Cleft lip is a birth defect that occurs when the upper lip doesn't fuse together properly during development. It can look like a small notch in the edge of the lip or it can extend into the nose and gums. Cleft lip can affect one side of the mouth, called a unilateral cleft, or both sides of the mouth, called a bilateral cleft. 

Cleft lip repair involves joining the sides of the lip together to close the opening or space in the lip. The surgery improves the function, structure and appearance of the lip. 

Cleft lip repair is a common but major surgery with serious risks and potential complications. Most children with cleft lip have the surgery between three to six months of age. 

Other procedures that may be performed 

Cleft lip may occur alone or with cleft palate. Cleft palate is a birth defect that occurs when the roof of the mouth, or palate, does not develop properly. Cleft palate results in a split or opening in the roof of the mouth. Cleft lip and cleft palate may require correction in separate surgeries. 

Your child’s doctor may recommend other procedures before or after cleft lip repair including:

  • Cleft palate repair to correct cleft palate
  • Dental and orthodontic procedures to repair dental problems, such as gum problems, bone defects, and small, missing, abnormal, displaced or extra teeth
  • Lip adhesion procedure or molding plate to bring the sides of a very wide cleft lip closer together before cleft lip repair surgery
  • Plastic surgery including scar revision surgery to minimize the appearance of scars and nose surgery to improve the appearance of the nose
Medical Reviewers: Daphne E. Hemmings, MD, MPH Last Review Date: Jul 11, 2013

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Medical References

Cleft Lip and Palate. KidsHealth. http://kidshealth.org/parent/medical/ears/cleft_lip_palate.html. Accessed April 25, 2013.
Cleft Lip and Palate Repair. American Society of Plastic Surgeons. http://www.plasticsurgery.org/Reconstructive-Procedures/Cleft-Lip-and-Palate.html. Accessed April 25, 2013.
Cleft Lip Repair. Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. http://www.chp.edu/CHP/Cleft+Lip+Repair. Accessed April 25, 2013.
A Guide to Understanding Cleft Lip and Palate. Children's Craniofacial Association. http://www.ccakids.com/assets/syndromebk_clp.pdf. Accessed April 25, 2013.

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