A cleft palate is a defect in the roof of the palate – either the hard portion or the soft portion. The gap may extend the entire length of the palate from in front of the teeth to the back of the soft portion. An infant with a cleft palate may have difficulty sucking on a bottle and loose fluid from the nose. The baby may also develop fluid in the ears, which can affect hearing.
Diagnosing a Cleft Palate
The diagnosis of a cleft palate can take place while the child is still in the womb, as early as 18 weeks of development. Early awareness of cleft palate allows the parents time to plan for the baby's care before the children is even born. The diagnosis after birth is made by a simple examination of the roof of the mouth with a tongue depressor and a light. Similar to some cleft lip cases, cleft palates can sometimes be tied to a syndrome. In these cases, additional treatment may be required outside of the cleft palate repair. Mount Sinai's unparalleled care for cleft palates stems from its being the oldest cleft team in the metropolitan area.
Cleft Palate Treatment
Closure of a cleft palate is usually performed around 10-12 months of age, before the baby starts meaningful speech. All that's required to initiate surgical treatment is clearance note from the child's pediatrician. During the procedure, the surgeons take tissue from either side of the palate and advance it towards the middle to seal the cleft. The surgery takes a couple of hours, and the child is admitted overnight for observation. If he or she is able to eat without difficulty, the baby may go home the following day with follow-up in the office within the week. Thereafter, office follow-up is more routine to follow the development of speech and language. The surgical experts at The Mount Sinai Hospital have particular knowledge and skill in the repair of clefts of the palate.
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