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The Cleft Palate and Craniofacial Institute at St. Louis Children's Hospital, established in 1978 as part of the Division of Plastic Surgery, is the largest and oldest center of its kind in the Midwest. The team has treated more than 3,000 patients with cleft lip and palate, and another 2,400 with major craniofacial anomalies. The Institute offers comprehensive evaluation, diagnosis and treatment for congenital (from birth) and acquired head and neck deformities.
What are cleft lip and cleft palate?
Cleft lip/cleft palate is a common birth defect, affecting one in every 700-750 individuals. Children born with cleft lip and palate are subject to a confusing array of problems that are often extensive and complex, such as abnormal facial appearance, unclear speech, poor hearing, inadequate dental health and learning problems. Major craniofacial anomalies are more rare, occurring as often as 1 in 2,000 births. The evaluation, management, and need for support services is more extensive for the major anomalies than for cleft lip/palate.
Caring for children with craniofacial anomalies -- a team approach
Contemporary care for clefts and other craniofacial anomalies is best provided through a multidisciplinary team. This is because no single healthcare discipline possesses all of the expertise necessary for successful and efficient habilitation of birth defects of the head and neck.
At St. Louis Children's Hospital, team evaluations are conducted weekly for such patients. The cleft palate team consists of specialists from plastic surgery, pediatrics, otolaryngology, nursing, genetics, oral surgery, pediatric dentistry, orthodontics, prosthodontics, audiology, speech therapy, social services and child psychology. In addition to these disciplines, ophthalmology and neurosurgery participate on the craniofacial team.
The team's approach is to provide each child the best chance for a positive self-image, an attractive appearance, intact hearing, understandable speech, useful vision, and healthy teeth -- allowing a smooth progression through childhood and adolescence and into adulthood.