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Cleft Lip Surgery

The cleft of the lip is repaired at around 3-4 months.


Coming into Hospital

Your baby will be admitted the day before or the day of the operation and may need to attend a pre-admission clinic. Both admissions enable you to meet the nurse, doctor and anaesthetist who will all explain what will happen during your stay in hospital.

Your baby may also need to have a routine blood test if requested. Photographs are taken as a baseline for follow-up and audit records. A routine hearing test will be performed prior to your baby's cleft palate repair (see hearing section).

Day of Operation

Parents are welcome to accompany their baby into the anaesthetic room. You will be prepared and supported throughout this by your nurse.

Your baby can be away from the ward for up to 4 hours. If you wish, you can accompany the nurse to the recovery room to collect your baby when he or she is ready to return to the ward. Your baby will not be without food and drink for more than 4-6 hours. More detailed instructions will be explained to you at the time.

Following repair of the lip, your baby may look different. This is not something to be frightened about - the facial shape is still going to develop and look as you would expect.

Feeding After the Operation

Once back on the ward, your baby will be allowed to feed as soon as he/she wants. Breast pumps are available on the ward, if required. Bottle fed babies can resume feeding with the bottle and teat they are used to. Your baby may also have a drip, which usually continues until the nurses feel your baby is taking enough by mouth.

Initially your baby's feeding routine will be slightly disrupted and you will find that they may want to take small, frequent amounts. Gradually over the next few days they will return to their normal feeding routine.

Will My Baby be in Pain?

Local anaesthetic and pain killers are given throughout the operation. Every effort is made to reduce any pain after the operation. Paracetamol and regular feeds will usually settle your baby comfortably. An occasional dose of a stronger analgesia may be needed especially if the lip is very bruised and swollen.

Care of the Lip

There will be a scar on the lip extending down from the nostril. Sometimes special skin glue is used over the wound for extra protection and stability. Stitches are dissolvable and can take up to 2-3 weeks to dissolve.

On some occasions, your baby will need to have their stitches removed 7 days after surgery. Care of the wound and removal of the stitches will be discussed with you by your nurse. Your baby may also require nasal splints, which are used for 3 - 4 months following surgery to help maintain and improve the shape of the nose. Once again you will be shown how to change and clean these prior to discharge.

In the initial stages after a lip repair, the normal process of healing involves some contraction of the wound. This often lifts the lip scar into a slightly different position, which then drops without further surgery. During this time the scar can also be firm and red and rather raised. This is a normal healing process and can be hastened to settle by massaging the scar line commencing about 4 - 6 weeks after surgery. The scar line should always be protected from the sun using a sun block.

Follow Up and Further Surgery

Your clinical nurse specialist will arrange to make a home visit 1 - 2 weeks after surgery. She will then continue to support you through your child's care. A follow-up clinic appointment will be arranged for 4 - 12 weeks following surgery.

Your child's facial and dental development will be monitored and any appropriate treatment discussed with you

Before your child starts school the lip repair will be checked to see it is satisfactory. Further surgery will be offered, if necessary. If there is a cleft of the gum then an operation to place some bone into the gap in the gum (alveolar bone grafting) may be needed to enable normal teeth development. This happens between 8 and 10 years of age.

For any questions or concerns please contact your clinical nurse specialist.

Arriving at the ward
Baby being weighed
Baby having name tag put on
Speaking with the Anaesthetist
Parents & baby in Anaesthetic Room
View of Anaesthetic Room & Theatre
Waiting to go in for the operation