Cleft Palate Surgery-Pictures, Procedure, Cost

Cleft palate surgery is a surgical procedure that involves the reconstruction or the repair of a damaged cleft palate. This deformity is commonly suffered by babies upon birth. Our cleft palate is essential in speech and in eating. A lot of babies are born with this condition and in order for them to have a better future; a cleft palate surgery should be performed while they are still young. This way the patient will acquire a normal speech pattern and would have better swallowing, breathing as well as eating.

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Cleft palate surgery should be done when the baby is between 6-12 months old, or right before the baby turns a year old. The earlier it is repaired, the lesser complications will be suffered by the child.

How to Manage your Baby before Cleft Palate Surgery

• Feeding – Feeding the baby with a cleft palate is very difficult. The most important thing to keep in mind is to supply your baby with proper nutrition to avoid any further complications. A qualified healthcare professional is the best person to approach regarding this matter. He/she would assess your baby’s capability of swallowing, give you tips on the right food and nutrients your baby must take and the proper positioning of your baby during feeding. A prosthodontist will create a device that would surely help your baby drink more milk and avoid episodes of choking or coughing while feeding. If the baby still rejects the milk after trying all the possible methods and positioning, a nasogastric tube is also an option. This tube is placed in the nose and inside the stomach where food goes directly into the stomach of the baby to achieve proper nutrition of the child.

• Possible Obstruction of Airway – Because of the cleft palate, the position of the tongue of the baby may obstruct her/his airway. In order to prevent this, listen to and understand the doctor’s advice on the positioning of the baby in order for her/him to avoid prolapse of the tongue from the airway.

• Ear Infection – Ear infection or medically termed as otitis media is common for babies with cleft palate. Since the palate has a gap, both the oral and nasal cavities are joined together. Your doctor may recommend that tympanostomy tubes be placed in order to prevent ear infection from happening.

Procedure of Cleft Palate Surgery

If the baby has already reached 6 months, he/she is now ready for cleft palate surgery. The main aim of this procedure is to repair the palate so that the oral and the nasal cavities will be separated. Infections can be better prevented and proper eating, speech and breathing can be afforded to the baby. The procedures for the surgery are as follows:

• The baby will be given anesthesia so he/she will be asleep during the entire surgery.

• An intravenous line will be placed to give the proper nutrients for the baby before and after surgery. The medications will also be administered via this line during the duration of the cleft palate surgery.

• The surgeons will then move tissues on the cleft in order to attach both sides of the palate. Upon doing so, the nasal and the oral cavity will also be separated.

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Cleft palate surgery usually takes 2 to 3 hours to finish.

Aftercare for Cleft Palate Surgery

It is vital to be careful and follow the proper aftercare regimen after a cleft palate surgery. This will aid in faster healing and comfort of your child.

• After the surgery, the intravenous fluid will serve as the baby’s source of nutrients for the time being. Feeding or giving milk will be done gradually in small amounts, but be sure to observe your baby’s response to feeding. Your doctor will assess your baby’s progress on taking in foods or liquids given to him/her. Be sure to follow proper positioning of your baby while feeding in order to prevent damage to the cleft repair. The most important thing to keep in mind is to not direct the food or fluid up the palate to prevent injury.

• Always keep an eye on your baby. If you want to sleep or if you have an errand to attend to, have someone watch her/him. Be sure that the baby does not pull on or touch the spot where the cleft palate surgery was done in order to assure quick healing of the palate.

• After the surgery, stitches and a packing called “surgisel” will be visible on your baby. Keep in mind that the stitches will disappear on their own after 4 or more days and that you are not authorized to remove the packing from your baby. Wait for the doctor’s go signal before you remove it, or better yet, let the doctor remove the packing instead.

• Do not be alarmed by the sight of swelling and bleeding on your baby’s mouth and nose after the cleft palate surgery. It is just normal and this will lessen after a day. Your doctor will also prescribe medicines to ease your baby’s pain caused by the surgery.

• Also remember that it is normal for your baby to suffer episodes of nasal congestion which would lead your baby to snort, breathe through his/her mouth and have poor appetite. This is just normal considering that the wounds are still fresh from surgery. The doctor will prescribe a nasal spray to ease the nasal congestion. You should religiously follow the proper way to administer the spray. In order to make sure that you get it right, have the doctor demonstrate on how to do this.

• Because your baby just underwent an operation, antibiotics and pain relievers will be prescribed to your baby. This will be initially given through your baby’s IV line but will be continued orally when you get home. Do not forget to follow the proper instructions on the administration of these medicines.

• Arrange an appointment with your baby’s doctor a week after discharge from the hospital for follow up.

Cleft Palate Surgery Cost

Cleft palate surgery is a pricey operation. But considering that this is for your baby’s welfare, it is just worth it. The cost of the procedure in the US for cleft palate surgery is $20,000. There are charities and social service organizations that are striving to keep the cost low to $500.  One can also go for medical tourism and get the cleft palate surgery done at India and other Asian countries for $2000.

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