Cleft Lip And Palate Repair

Latest update: April 19, 2024
Medically reviewed by: Jordan Frey MD


A cleft lip or palate is a condition where the upper lip or the roof of the mouth does not fuse together, leaving a split. This happens due to fetal development issues during pregnancy. This split on the mouth can occur on either side of the face and cause speech, hearing, and eating problems.

Cleft lip surgery usually takes place at 3 months of age and cleft palate repairs take place at 1 year of age. The procedure is done under general anesthetic and can last for 2-3 hours. Babies will need to stay in hospital for 1-3 days for monitoring following the operation.

Doctors can use various techniques depending on the case. Cleft lip repair, also known as cheiloplasty, is recommended for babies of 3-6 months of age. The procedure aims to close the gap and improve the overall appearance and function of the mouth. The surgery can also create a more symmetrical mouth with a defined cupid bow that leaves a decent distance between the nose and the top lip. Surgeons make incisions on both sides of the gap to create flaps of skin. These are then pulled towards each other and sutured up to close the gap.

The cleft lip repair surgery tends to leave a small, straight scar right under the nose. 

Cleft palate repair procedure, also known as palatoplasty, is usually performed on babies nine months to 1 year of age. This is to allow the palate to develop and grow a little more before the procedure. The surgery aims to close the gap between the nose and mouth. Surgeons perform the repair in layers to create a normal palate. They rearrange and repair the soft palate to aid speech. They also make incisions on both sides of the cleft. The mucosa is then moved together, and the sites are closed up using sutures. 

Many times, patients who undergo cleft lip and palate repair surgeries will also opt for additional surgeries to further improve their appearance. These could include bone grafting, rhinoplasty, jaw surgery, and orthodontic treatments for teeth that are out of position due to the cleft lip.
Operation Time
Inpatient Period
1-3 days
Number of Appointments
Recovery Period
1-2 weeks

Cleft Lip Repair - Surgical Markings

In this surgical tutorial, Dr. Jared Christophel talks about the procedure to repair a complete cleft lip. The procedure is demonstrated in the animation and Dr. Christophel makes detailed commentary on the technique. He talks through the marking process and explains how the points should measure up. Dr. Christophel explains what is intended.

What to Expect After Cleft Palate Surgery

This video, from Nationwide Children's Hospital, prepares parents for what to expect after their children have had cleft palate correction surgery. The narrator goes over instances that should not cause alarm and things that should have the parents calling their doctor. She defines dehydration and explains the signs of this condition. The video covers medication that may be prescribed. It gives directions on which medications should not be taken together. It covers possible side effects.