Cleft Lip and Palate

Clefts of the lip and palate affect about 1:600 births.

The cleft arises during early foetal development due to a failure of proper fusion of the facial processes and presents as a cleft of the lip, a cleft of the palate or both. The cleft can be on one side (unilateral) or both sides (bilateral). Whilst a cleft of the lip is often diagnosed before birth on ultrasound scan, cleft palate is more difficult to diagnose this way and therefore cleft palate is more often diagnosed at the time of birth. In many cases the cause of the cleft is not known; however it is known that in many cases a combination of both genetic factors and external influences during early pregnancy is important. The risk of developing a cleft can be reduced by ensuring a healthy pregnancy including a balanced diet and avoiding smoking and alcohol.

The pages linked to here cover many of the common questions relating to cleft lip and palate - please choose a link from the left hand menu.

Although cleft lip and/or palate is a significant and not uncommon birth defect, effective and timely treatment with a well-coordinated multi-disciplinary cleft team can produce excellent long-term outcomes such as a near-normal appearance, normal speech, normal hearing and function of the mouth, face and jaws.  

(2012, Mr Alistair Smyth, Consultant Cleft Lip & Palate Surgeon, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust)