Cleft lip and palate is a congenital defect of unknown cause. It happens in about 1:1000 live Caucasian births and about 1:2000 live African-American births. The incidence in American Indians is higher. This condition can involve just the lip in about 25% of cases, just the palate in about 25% of cases or both the lip and palate in 50% of patients. We know the malformation occurs very early in the embryonic development, about 4-8 weeks. Surgery to correct this condition is usually at about 3 months to close the lip and at about 18 months to close the palate. Additional surgeries involving pressure equalization tubes to treat middle ear fluid, nasal surgery, dental surgery, bone grafting and surgery to improve speech (pharyngeal flaps) may be needed over the first 10-12 years of life depending on the severity of the defects.
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