Cleft Lip and Palate Repair

Repair of the cleft lip and cleft palate is a type of plastic surgery to correct abnormal development, aiming to restore function and make the appearance closer to normal.

Abnormal development

Leporine lip and cleft palate are among the most common congenital malformations affecting children. Incomplete formation of the upper lip (fissure) or roof of the mouth (palate) may occur individually or together. Conditions may vary in severity and may include one or both sides of the face.

Cleft, or separation of the upper lip and/or the inner palate, occurs very early in the development of the fetus. During fetal development, some components of the upper lip and the mouth sky do not form normally. Most cracks can be repaired through specialized plastic surgery techniques, improving the child’s ability to eat, talk, listen and breathe.

Both situations need to be corrected, as they harm the baby, especially during breastfeeding. The cleft lip prevents the child from being able to close the mouth and suck milk, while the cleft palate, in addition to interfering with feeding, impairs speech and increases the risk of infections.

Leporine lip and cleft palate: how surgery is performed

As we are talking about babies a few months old, plastic surgery for cleft lip and cleft palate is a delicate procedure, although it is considered simple and quite safe.

The surgery is conducted by a team of different specializations, including a plastic surgeon. It is done under general anesthesia with sedation and usually lasts less than 2 hours. Ideally, the child should stay at least one day in hospital and observation.

The procedure for correction of the leporine lip is focused on the reconstruction of the space between the gum and the lip and, if necessary, the nasal floor. Muscle reconstruction is also performed to ensure proper movement of the upper lip.

For the cleft palate, the tissue and musculature are replaced to close the cleft and ensure the proper development of speech. When the child presents both problems, usually the surgery of the leporine lip is done before.

Depending on the severity of the deformity and the affected area, there may be a need for more than one procedure. However, it is noteworthy that they do not happen in a row, but as the child’s growth is.

It is important to note that, usually, reconstructive surgery of the leporine lip (along with other affected structures such as nose and soft palate) can only be done from 3 months of age. The correction of the cleft palate (hard palate) is usually done only from the 15th month of life.


It is common for the baby to feel irritated after surgery for correction of the cleft lip and cleft palate. As the healing process results in itching and pain, usually children try to put their hand on the face.

It is important that parents stay alert and prevent this from happening, so as not to harm the results or cause bleeding. What many pediatricians recommend is the use of immobilizers for the elbows, helping to keep the baby’s arms stretched so that it does not touch the operated area.

The baby can resume breastfeeding normally after the first week. For older children, who do not feed exclusively on breast milk, a liquid or pasty diet should be maintained.

After 30 days, it is interesting to undergo evaluation by a speech therapist, as it may be necessary to perform exercises so as not to compromise speech. It is noteworthy that as the child grows, he may need retouch surgery, especially to make the scar more discreet.

If you are looking for plastic or reconstructive surgery, look for a professional you trust. Choosing a responsible and skilled plastic surgeon is the first step towards a well-done and safe operation.