Cleft, Lip & Palate Service
**DRAFT Content including all subsections - WORK IN PROGRESS, APRIL 2019**
The Cork Cleft Lip and Palate Service is an integrated service for the many needs of children born with cleft lip and/or palate in the Munster area. A team has been established since the 1970’s, by Ms. Tricia Diamond (retired SLT Manager) and Mr. Tom O’ Connor (retired Consultant Plastic Surgeon) and includes specialists from many disciplines who work together to provide this service. The service is based at Cork University Hospital (CUH), but it is linked into many community services in your local area, i.e. speech therapy, audiology, orthodontics, dentistry, etc. The aim is to provide a seamless pathway of care for all patients, tailored to their individual needs. With the exception of a small number of very complex cases, the Cork Cleft Lip and Palate Service deals with the full spectrum of cleft, lip, and palate cases – as well as many other conditions, such as Pierre Robin Sequence and Velocardiofacial Syndrome, which can impact on feeding, speech, dentition, etc. The team have the advantage of easy access to clinics and excellent ward and theatre capacity, with little delay in the timing of surgery and other treatments.
What is a cleft lip and/or palate?
A cleft lip and/or palate is a birth defect that occurs during development in the womb. During the 5th to 12th weeks of pregnancy, the baby’s face and palate (roof of mouth) forms. They form in two halves and then join together into one. If the two halves do not join together, the baby is born with a cleft. A cleft can be a gap in the lip and/or palate. It can occur on one side of the mouth (unilateral) or on both sides of the mouth (bilateral). The palate may involve the soft palate only (minor) or extend all the way into the hard palate.
Cleft lip and palate affects about 1 in 700 babies born in Ireland every year. It is the fourth most common birth defect that happens during pregnancy. Cleft lip with/or without cleft palate is generally more common among boys; however, cleft palate occurring alone is more common in girls. The causes for cleft lip and/or palate are not yet fully understood although much research is being undertaken. The risk of having a baby with a cleft rises if another family member was born with a cleft.
A cleft palate can be associated with speech difficulties requiring speech therapy. Cleft palate is also associated with hearing difficulties due to fluid in the ear. This needs to be monitored. Your child may require grommets (tiny tubes placed in the ear drum), or in some cases hearing aids. Children with clefts of the palate and/or gums may also have problems with dental decay, requiring regular dental checks. In some cases, a cleft lip +/- palate can be in association with a wider medical diagnosis, i.e. Velocardiofacial syndrome, Pierre robin sequence, Stickler syndrome.