What is cleft lip repair?
Cleft lip repair is surgery to fix a split (cleft) in the lip. The doctor will make a cut along the edges of the cleft lip. This cut is called an incision. It will go up into the nose. The doctor will use stitches to bring the cut edges together to shape the upper lip and nostrils.
Most children have a short hospital stay after surgery. It usually takes about 3 to 4 weeks for the incision to heal. The incision will leave a scar. It will fade and become softer and flatter in the months and years after surgery.
After surgery, it will probably be easier for your child to eat, breathe, and speak. Some children need more surgery on their lips, noses, or mouths as they get older to improve their speech or the appearance of their scar.
How do you prepare for surgery?
Surgery can be stressful for both your child and you. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for your child's surgery.
Preparing for surgery
- Talk to your child about the surgery. Tell your child that the surgery will probably make it easier to eat, breathe, and speak. Hospitals know how to take care of children. The staff will do all they can to make it easier for your child.
- Understand exactly what surgery is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
- Tell the doctor ALL the medicines, vitamins, supplements, and herbal remedies your child takes. Some may increase the risk of problems during the surgery. Your doctor will tell you if your child should stop taking any of them before the surgery and how soon to do it.
- Ask if a special tour of the surgery area and hospital is available. This may make your child feel less nervous about what happens.
- Plan for your child's recovery time. Your child may need more of your time right after the surgery, both for care and for comfort.
The day before surgery
- A nurse may call you (or you may need to call the hospital). This is to confirm the time and date of your child's surgery and answer any questions.
- Remember to follow your doctor's instructions about your child taking or stopping medicines before surgery. This includes over-the-counter medicines.
What happens on the day of surgery?
Follow the instructions exactly about when your child should stop eating and drinking. If you don't, the surgery may be canceled. If the doctor told you to have your child take his or her medicines on the day of surgery, have your child take them with only a sip of water.
Have your child take a bath or shower before you come in. Do not apply lotion or deodorant.
Your child may brush his or her teeth. But tell your child not to swallow any toothpaste or water.
Do not let your child wear contact lenses. Bring your child's glasses or contact lens case.
Be sure your child has something that reminds him or her of home. A special stuffed animal, toy, or blanket may be comforting. For an older child, it might be a book or music.
At the hospital or surgery center
- A parent or legal guardian must accompany your child.
- Your child will be kept comfortable and safe by the anesthesia provider. Your child will be asleep during the surgery.
- The surgery will take about 1 to 3 hours.
- After surgery, your child will be taken to the recovery room. As your child wakes up, the recovery room staff will monitor his or her condition. The doctor will talk to you about the surgery.
- You will probably be able to take your child home 1 to 2 days after the surgery.
- Your child may have a wire guard across his or her upper lip. This helps prevent the lip from stretching and protects the stitches from breaking or separating. Your child may need to wear this for 10 to 14 days.
- Your child may have splints on his or her arms. The splints keep your child's arms straight so that he or she cannot rub the incision while it heals. Your child may need to wear the splints for several weeks.
When should you call your doctor?
- You have questions or concerns.
- You don't understand how to prepare your child for the surgery.
- Your child becomes ill before the surgery (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
- You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about your child having the surgery.
Where can you learn more?
Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd
Enter L252 in the search box to learn more about "Cleft Lip Repair: Before Your Child's Surgery".
Current as of: March 1, 2023
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Arden Christen DDS, MSD, MA, FACD - Dentistry