Cleft lip repair is a surgical procedure to correct a groove-like defect in the lip which arises during pregnancy; a birth defect that occurs when a baby’s lip or mouth is not formed properly. A cleft lip occurs when the tissue that forms the lips doesn’t join completely in the fourth to seventh week of pregnancy, which results in an opening in the upper lip. It can be a small slit or a large opening that goes through the lip into the nose. A cleft lip can occur on one or both sides of the lips, or at the centre of the lips, although this is rarer. Having a cleft lip is an aesthetic issue, and it can also cause speech and eating problems, as well as ear infections. Adults or children with cleft lips might also have hearing difficulties and problems with their teeth. Depending on the severity of the cleft, there are varying degrees of treatments and procedures to rectify the problem. Cleft lip correction This surgical procedure can be initiated at any age but the best results can be achieved if the surgery is performed between two and six months of age. With this procedure, the look and appearance of a person’s face can be improved, along with their breathing, hearing, speech and language development. During the procedure, the patient would be injected with a general anaesthetic to numb the surgical area and constrict blood vessels to limit bleeding. There are several operative techniques to reconstruct a cleft lip, depending on the situation. Generally, the surgeon will trim the tissues, sewing the lip together with very small stitches so that the appearance of the scar is kept to a minimum – most of the stitches will be absorbed into the tissue during the healing process. At the same time, if needs be, the nose will be reshaped to accommodate the structure of the lip. The procedure usually takes between one to two hours, but if the cleft is more extensive, the surgery could take longer. Ideally after performing surgery the nostrils will be shaped symmetrically and the lips will appear natural and functional normally. Achieving the characteristics of a natural lip ultimately depends on a number of factors, including the skill of the surgeon, the accuracy of pre-surgery markings, the alignment of bones in the affected area, the healing process and the repaired lip’s normal growth. There may be additional surgical corrections required to reconstruct nasal symmetry. The goal of the surgery is to achieve an upper and lower lip balance, and make sure the lips harmonise with the rest of the facial features. Diagram Credits: www.surgeryencyclopedia.com Improving lifestyle and physical functions Besides regaining normal physical functions such as eating, talking, hearing and breathing, cleft lip corrections impact an individual’s self-esteem, social skills and behaviour. No longer should those affected with cleft lips feel any shame or isolation caused by this birth defect – a simple cosmetic procedure is all that’s needed. Beverly Wilshire Medical Centre surgeons are highly skilled in cleft lip procedure, so contact us for further details.