Cleft palate is a birth defect in which the roof of the mouth
(palate) does not develop normally during pregnancy, leaving an opening (cleft)
that may go through to the nasal cavity. Until treated surgically, cleft palate
can interfere with feeding, speech development, and hearing.
Cleft palate is usually noticed at birth during a newborn's first
physical examination. The condition often occurs with cleft lip; sometimes
problems linked with cleft palate also include deformities of the nasal
septum or nasal cavity. The severity and type of cleft palate vary according to
where the cleft occurs on the palate and whether all the layers of the palate
This defect forms early in fetal development when the upper
jawbones and tissues do not completely join during fetal growth. It may be
inherited or develop as a result of maternal environmental exposures during
pregnancy, such as consumption of alcohol.
Surgery is used to correct cleft palate; complex problems usually
require more surgeries and treatment, such as speech therapy. Before the
defect is repaired, special assistance may be required for feeding, such as
using a special nipple on the baby's bottle.
John Pope, MD - Pediatrics & Adam David Schaffner, MD, FACS - Plastic Surgery, Otolaryngology
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