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Cleft Lip And Cleft Palate Repair


Cleft lip and cleft palate repair is surgery to close the openings in your child's lip and mouth. Your child may have a cleft lip repair, a cleft palate repair, or both.


Before your child's surgery:

  • Informed consent is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that your child may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your child's medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done to your child. Make sure all of your questions are answered.
  • An IV is a small tube placed in your child's vein that is used to give him medicine or liquids.
  • General anesthesia: This is medicine to keep your child completely asleep during surgery. This medicine may be given in his IV or as a gas that he breathes. Your child may have a tube placed in his mouth and throat. This is to make sure he gets enough oxygen while he is asleep. General anesthesia is normally used when your child is no longer an infant.
  • Preoperative care: Medicine may be given to help your child relax. Your child will be taken to the room where the procedure or surgery will be done.

During your child's surgery:

You will be asked to help your child change into a hospital gown. Medicine may be given in your child's IV to help him relax or make him drowsy. Your child will get general anesthesia to keep him asleep during surgery. To repair your child's lip or palate, the surgeon will cut along each side of the cleft. Tissue from both sides of the cleft will be brought together to close the hole. The edges are sewn together with stitches. These will help the wound stay closed as the cleft heals. If your child's cleft involves his nose, the nostril may be reshaped at this time or in a later surgery.

After your child's surgery:

Your child will be taken to a room where he can rest after the procedure. Healthcare providers will watch him closely. Your child will then be taken to a regular hospital room. Do not let your child get out of bed until a healthcare provider says it is okay.

  • Activity: Your child will need to rest after surgery. Healthcare providers will tell you when it is safe to let your child move around and play.
  • Intake and output may be measured. Healthcare providers will keep track of the amount of liquid your child is getting. They also may need to know how much your child is urinating. Ask healthcare providers if they need to measure or collect your child's urine.
  • Oxygen: Your child may need oxygen after surgery. He may get extra oxygen through nose tubes or a face mask, or he may be placed in an oxygen tent. Do not take off the oxygen tubes or mask until a healthcare provider says it is okay.
  • Medicines:
    • Pain medicine: Your child may need medicine to take away or decrease pain. Know how often your child should get the medicine and how much. Watch for signs of pain in your child. Tell caregivers if his pain continues or gets worse. To prevent falls, stay with your child to help him get out of bed.
    • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to help prevent or treat an infection caused by bacteria.


  • Your child may bleed more than usual or get an infection after surgery. Your child may have trouble breathing or get blood clots. If your child puts his hands or an object into his mouth, he can damage the incision. If your child's skin separates away from the stitches, surgery may have to be done again. This may also cause more scarring. The most common problem with cleft lip repair is when the side of the repaired lip does not line up with the other side. The most common problem with cleft palate repair is poor healing. It is common for children with clefts to need repair surgery more than once.
  • Without treatment, your child may have problems sucking. This can delay how much weight he gains as he grows. He may be tired after he eats because he has to work harder to suck and swallow. Feeding problems may cause liquids to back up into your child's ear canals. This increases the chance of ear infections and long-term hearing problems. The cleft may also cause your child to have problems with speech.


You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's caregivers to decide what care you want for your child.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.