At the current birth rate in Ireland, approximately 80 to 100 babies are born every year with a cleft of the lip and/or palate. While this can initially be distressing for the parents and family, reconstructive plastic surgery is available to repair the incompletely fused parts. Surgery has a high success rate and a near normal appearance and function can be achieved in most cases. Just the lip alone or the palate alone can be cleft, or in some cases both are cleft. In Ireland all babies with clefts are looked after by Plastic surgeons with specialised expertise in this area, which are backed up by a multidisciplinary team. Together they will provide care and support for cleft related issues from birth until adulthood.
For more information, please visit www.cleftcareireland.ie, where you will also find contact details of all the cleft teams in the Republic of Ireland.
Babies diagnosed with a cleft lip and/or palate are seen by a member of the Cleft Team soon after birth. Advice will be given on feeding a child with a cleft palate as these babies may have difficulty breastfeeding or sucking from a standard bottle.
Cleft lips are usually repaired when the baby is about 3 months old, and sometimes some of the palate is repaired at this stage, if required. The remainder of the palate is repaired between 9 and 12 months of age. Both of these operations will require a stay in hospital and a general anaesthetic, but generally babies recover quickly.
As the child grows they may need help from other specialists, such as Ear, Nose and Throat surgeons, Speech & Language therapists, Orthodontists and Maxillofacial surgeons, all of whom form part of the Cleft Team. They may need further surgery to improve speech, to help straighten their teeth, to correct the shape of their nose and to adjust the shape of their jaws. Most children with a cleft continue to attend the Cleft team until they are about 20 years of age.
Support for parents and patients can be found at www.cleft.ie and www.clapa.com