The major finding with a cleft lip is the visible space in the upper lip. The gap may extend the entire length of the lip from the bottom of the nose to the opening of the mouth or span only a portion. An infant with a cleft lip may have difficulty making a seal around a bottle and thus have trouble with drinking and maintaining an adequate weight.
Diagnosing a Cleft Lip
The diagnosis of a cleft lip may be made before the baby is born on a routine sonogram as early as 18 weeks of pregnancy. Knowing about this condition ahead of time gives the parents time to plan for the baby's care. A diagnosis after the baby is born is made by simple inspection. Sometimes, a cleft lip can be associated with other medical conditions as part of a syndrome. Some syndromes may require additional treatment, in addition to taking care of the lip. Mount Sinai has the oldest cleft team in the metropolitan area with extensive experience in the care of patients with a cleft lip.
Cleft Lip Treatment
Closure of a cleft lip is usually performed around 3 months of age, when the risk of anesthesia is minimal. No particular preoperative or laboratory testing is required for a cleft lip repair, only a clearance note from the pediatrician. The surgery involves borrowing tissue from the lip on both sides of the cleft. The procedure takes a couple of hours, and the baby is admitted overnight for observation. If the child is eating without difficulty, he or she may go home the following day with another follow-up appointment with the doctor the next week. Thereafter, routine doctors appointments will monitor the scar. Mount Sinai's surgeons have particular knowledge and skill in the repair of clefts of the lip.