A cleft is a congenital split or gap in the bone and/or soft tissue of the face. It results from a failure of fusion during embryogenesis. The most common location of a facial cleft is in the upper lip and palate (roof of mouth).
In addition to the obvious aesthetic concerns, many important functional implications need to be considered. Difficulty feeding (whether breast or bottle) is usually the first challenge parents must face. As the child ages, problems with speech development and hearing ability may also be affected.
The best care to a child with a cleft lip and/or palate is therefore delivered by a multidisciplinary team. In addition to the craniofacial surgeon, other important team members include the otolaryngologist, orthodontist, dentist, speech pathologist, nutritionist, nurses, and social worker.