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Cleft Lip & Palate Repair

Cleft lip and cleft palate are among the most common birth defects in North America. They are craniofacial abnormalities that occur when the sides of the lips or the roof of the mouth fail to fuse together when the child is developing in the womb. They may occur separately or together, with varying degrees of severity, involving either one or both sides of the face.

A child born with cleft lip or palate has an opening in the lip or the roof of the mouth. This can affect the baby’s feeding and speech development and of course, their appearance. Special bottles and feeding techniques are needed to help the child thrive and grow. Most children with cleft lip or palate have surgery to repair the condition during the first year of life.

Dr. Christopher C. Chang is a highly trained, board-certified plastic surgeon, serving the Washington, D.C. area and specializing in the face. Among other impressive credentials from Harvard, Yale, and NYU School of Medicine, he completed a fellowship in advanced craniofacial surgery for children and adults at John Hopkins Hospital/University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center. If your child needs cleft lip or palate repair, you can have confidence in Dr. Chang to perform the procedure with the most up to date techniques and proficiency.


What Causes Cleft Lip and Palate?

A cleft in the upper lip or the roof of the mouth occurs very early in the child’s development – within the first trimester of pregnancy. Certain components of the palate and upper lip may fail to develop normally. The tissues that the lips and palate are made of normally fuse together during the second or third month of gestation. In babies with cleft lip or palate, the fusion occurs only partially or not at all.

Studies indicate that most cleft lip and palate birth defects are caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. In some cases, however, there is no definite known cause. Additionally, unless there is a strong history of prior clefting in your family, the incidence of repeat children with clefts is quite low.

How is cleft lip & palate repair procedure performed?

The surgery is performed under general anesthesia or intravenous sedation. To repair a cleft lip, incisions are made on both sides of the cleft to create tissue flaps. The flaps are then drawn together and sutured to close the cleft. Detailed and precise measurements are made to ensure the most cosmetic and functional repair as possible.

Cleft palate repair involves closing the cleft and rebuilding the palate by carefully repositioning muscles and tissue. Incisions are made on either side of the cleft and special flap techniques are used. The repair is stitched together in the middle of the roof of the mouth, providing enough palate length for speech development, normal feeding, and continued growth.

Cleft lip & palate repair in Washington, D.C.

If your child needs cleft lip or palate repair, you want a highly-qualified and experienced surgeon to perform the procedure. Dr. Christopher C. Chang is a board-certified plastic surgeon with extensive training and experience specifically in craniofacial surgery for children and adults.

As your child grows, he or she may need secondary procedures to improve appearance and function. Dr. Chang takes a comprehensive approach to patient care, focusing on the entire treatment plan from infancy to adulthood, as well as minimizing the appearance of facial scarring.

You need a surgeon you can trust for your child’s cleft lip or palate repair and continued treatment through adolescence. Schedule a consultation with Dr. Chang. He will explain the repair procedure, treatment timeline, and answer any questions you may have.

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