A cleft palate is initially treated with surgery. This is usually not done right after birth, but is delayed until the child is old enough and big enough for the surgery to be done safely. This is usually when the child is about 7-18 months old, but will depend upon the individual situation. For example, if the child has other health problems, surgery will most likely be delayed.
The major goals of surgery are to:
Close the gap or hole between the roof of the mouth and the nose
Reconnect the muscles that make the palate work
Lengthen the repaired palate so it can function properly
Surgeons use many different techniques to accomplish these goals. The choice of techniques should be discussed between the parents and the surgeon before the surgery.
Are there risks during surgery?
Any surgery has potential complications. The repair of a cleft palate is no different. The major potential problems following surgery include:
Breathing difficulty due to swelling in the mouth
Early or late separation of the repaired palate
Many children are admitted to the intensive care unit immediately after surgery for closer observation, in case of bleeding or breathing troubles. Scar tissue may take several months to form. Once present, the scar tissue may prevent the palate muscles from working properly, or it may cause the palate to become too short to close off the passageway from the mouth to the nose.