The palate is the roof or the upper part of the mouth that separates the nasal portion (nose) from the oral portion (mouth) of the face. Sometimes, during the development of the fetus, the upper lip and/or the roof of the mouth fail to develop completely, forming a separation referred to as a cleft palate. Cleft palate may cause difficulties for the child to speak, eat, hear and breathe. It can be corrected by surgery to restore the normal functionality and appearance of the mouth.
Cleft palate surgery is specifically indicated for the correction of a cleft palate. This surgery is usually performed between 9 to 12 months after birth prior to development of speech.
Preparing for the procedure
Your child must be healthy and should have gained weight prior to the surgery. Blood tests and a physical examination will be conducted, and the medical history collected by the doctor. It is advisable to inform the doctor if the child is taking any kind of medications. You will not be allowed to feed your child for several hours prior to the surgery; however, water can be given in small quantities.
Cleft palate surgery is performed under general anesthesia. The tissue from the roof of the mouth is arranged to cover the cleft. The muscles of the soft palate may be repositioned to enable the best possible speech function. Even after the cleft is completely closed, an additional surgery may be required to restore normal speech.
Your child will probably have to stay in the hospital for about 5 to 7 days after the surgery. The site of the wound caused by the surgery should be cleaned with soap or a cleansing liquid and must be kept moist with the help of an ointment. Your child must be on a liquid diet until the wound heals completely. Avoid stretching or applying pressure on the palate for 3 to 4 weeks. Your child will recover completely in about 4 weeks.
Some of the major complications that can occur due to cleft palate surgery are that the bones of the face might not grow correctly and the connection between the nose and mouth may not be correct. There may also be bleeding and infection at the site of wound.