||[Sep. 18th, 2009|12:26 pm]
Cleft lip (cheiloschisis) and cleft palate (palatoschisis) (colloquially known as harelip), which can also occur together as cleft lip and palate, are variations of a type of clefting congenital deformity caused by abnormal facial development during gestation. A cleft is a fissure or opening—a gap. It is the non-fusion of the body's natural structures that form before birth.
Clefts can also affect other parts of the face, such as the eyes, ears, nose, cheeks and forehead. In 1976, Dr. Paul Tessier described fifteen lines of cleft. These craniofacial clefts are rare and are frequently described as Tessier clefts using the numerical locator devised by Dr. Tessier.
A cleft lip or palate can be successfully treated with surgery soon after birth. Cleft lips or palates occur in somewhere between one in 600-800 births.
 Causes of cleft
During the first six to eight weeks of pregnancy, the shape of the embryo's head is formed. Five primitive tissue lobes grow:
a) one from the top of the head down towards the future upper lip; (Frontonasal Prominence)
b-c) two from the cheeks, which meet the first lobe to form the upper lip; (Maxillar Prominence)
d-e) and just below, two additional lobes grow from each side, which form the chin and lower lip; (Mandibular Prominence)
If these tissues fail to meet, a gap appears where the tissues should have joined (fused). This may happen in any single joining site, or simultaneously in several or all of them. The resulting birth defect reflects the locations and severity of individual fusion failures (e.g., from a small lip or palate fissure up to a completely malformed face).
The upper lip is formed earlier than the palate, from the first three lobes named a to c above. Formation of the palate is the last step in joining the five embryonic facial lobes, and involves the back portions of the lobes b and c. These back portions are called palatal shelves, which grow towards each other until they fuse in the middle. This process is very vulnerable to multiple toxic substances, environmental pollutants, and nutritional imbalance. The biologic mechanisms of mutual recognition of the two cabinets, and the way they are glued together, are quite complex and obscure despite intensive scientific research.
The cause of cleft lip and cleft palate formation can be genetic in nature. A specific variation in a gene that can have abnormalities causing the Van der Woude Syndrome increases threefold the occurrence of these deformities has been identified by Zucchero et al. in 2004 as reported by the BBC.
Environmental influences may also cause, or interact with genetics to produce, orofacial clefting. Some environmental factors that have been studied include: seasonal causes (such as pesticide exposure); maternal diet and vitamin intake; retinoids- which are members of the vitamin A family; anticonvulsant drugs; alcohol; cigarette use; nitrate compounds; organic solvents; parental exposure to lead; and illegal drugs (cocaine, crack cocaine, heroin, etc).
If a person is born with a cleft, the chances of that person having a child with a cleft, given no other obvious factor, rises to 1 in 14. Research continues to investigate the extent to which Folic acid can reduce the incidence of clefting.
In some cases, cleft palate is caused by syndromes which also cause other problems. Stickler's Syndrome can cause cleft lip and palate, joint pain, and myopia. Loeys-Dietz syndrome can cause cleft palate or bifid uvula, hypertelorism, and aortic aneurysm. Cleft lip/palate may be present in many different chromosome disorders including Patau Syndrome (trisomy 13). Many clefts run in families, even though there does not seem to be any identifiable syndrome present.
Cleft lip and palate is very treatable; however, the kind of treatment depends on the type and severity of the cleft.
Most children with a form of clefting are monitored by a cleft palate team or craniofacial team through young adulthood. Care can be lifelong. Treatment procedures can vary between craniofacial teams. For example, some teams wait on jaw correction until the child is aged 10 to 12 (argument: growth is less influential as deciduous teeth are replaced by permanent teeth, thus saving the child from repeated corrective surgeries), while other teams correct the jaw earlier (argument: less speech therapy is needed than at a later age when speech therapy becomes harder). Within teams, treatment can differ between individual cases depending on the type and severity of the cleft.
In the 18th century, pioneering surgeon Dr. Victor Collins devised the first non-skin graft procedure for the treatment of infantile unilateral incomplete and complete cleft lips. This technique involves the partial circumcision of the foreskin and then being applied to the affected area. This technique has led the way in the modern day removal of the two most common types of cleft lip.
 Cleft lip treatment
Within the first 2–3 months after birth, surgery is performed to close the cleft lip. While surgery to repair a cleft lip can be performed soon after birth, the often preferred age is at approximately 10 weeks of age, following the "rule of 10s" coined by surgeons Wilhelmmesen and Musgrave in 1969 (the child is at least 10 weeks of age; weighs at least 10 pounds, and has at least 10g hemoglobin). If the cleft is bilateral and extensive, two surgeries may be required to close the cleft, one side first, and the second side a few weeks later. The most common procedure to repair a cleft lip is the Millard procedure pioneered by Ralph Millard. Dr. Ralph Millard performed the first procedure at a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) unit in Korea.
Often an incomplete cleft lip requires the same surgery as complete cleft. This is done for two reasons. Firstly the group of muscles required to purse the lips run through the upper lip. In order to restore the complete group a full incision must be made. Secondly, to create a less obvious scar the surgeon tries to line up the scar with the natural lines in the upper lip (such as the edges of the philtrum) and tuck away stitches as far up the nose as possible. Incomplete cleft gives the surgeon more tissue to work with, creating a more supple and natural-looking upper lip.
Often a cleft palate is temporarily closed, the cleft isn't closed, but it is covered by the a palatal obturator (a prosthetic device made to fit the roof of the mouth covering the gap).
Cleft palate can also be corrected by surgery, usually performed between 6 and 12 months. Approximately 20-25% only require one palatal surgery to achieve a competent velopharyngeal valve capable of producing normal, non-hypernasal speech. However, combinations of surgical methods and repeated surgeries are often necessary as the child grows. One of the new innovations of cleft lip and cleft palate repair is the Latham appliance. The Latham is surgically inserted by use of pins during the child's 4th or 5th month. After it is in place, the doctor, or parents, turn a screw daily to bring the cleft together to assist with future lip and/or palate repair.
If the cleft extends into the maxillary alveolar ridge, the gap is usually corrected by filling the gap with bone tissue. The bone tissue can be acquired from the patients own chin, rib or hip.
A tympanostomy tube is often inserted into the eardrum to aerate the middle ear. This is often beneficial for the hearing ability of the child.
Speech problems are usually treated by a speech-language pathologist. In some cases pharyngeal flap surgery or augmentation pharyngoplasty is performed to reduce the escape of nasal airflow in speech sounds requiring oral air pressure, to improve the pronunciation of those sounds, and reduce nasality in those parts of speech that are not normally nasalized. The speech-language pathologist may also be called on to correct incorrect speaking habits that the child developed before the cleft was corrected surgically.
A craniofacial team is routinely used to treat this condition. The majority of hospitals still use craniofacial teams; yet others are making a shift towards dedicated cleft lip and palate programs. While craniofacial teams are widely knowledgeable about all aspects of craniofacial conditions, dedicated cleft lip and palate teams are able to dedicate many of their efforts to being on the cutting edge of new advances in cleft lip and palate care.
Many of the top pediatric hospitals are developing their own CLP clinics in order to provide patients with comprehensive multi-disciplinary care from birth through adolescence. Allowing an entire team to care for a child throughout their cleft lip and palate treatment (which is ongoing) allows for the best outcomes in every aspect of a child's care. While the individual approach can yield significant results, current trends indicate that team based care leads to better outcomes for CLP patients. .
The members of the craniofacial team at a minimum include a plastic or facial plastic surgeon trained in craniofacial surgery, otolaryngologist, geneticist, orthodontist, and social worker.
A complete listing of craniofacial teams in the United States is available through the Cleft Palate Foundation
Cleft may cause problems with feeding, ear disease, speech and socialization.
Due to lack of suction, an infant with a cleft may have trouble feeding. An infant with a cleft palate will have greater success feeding in a more upright position. Gravity will help prevent milk from coming through the baby's nose if he/she has cleft palate. Gravity feeding can be accomplished by using specialized equipment, such as the Haberman Feeder, or by using a combination of nipples and bottle inserts like the one shown, is commonly used with other infants. A large hole, crosscut, or slit in the nipple, a protruding nipple and rhythmically squeezing the bottle insert can result in controllable flow to the infant without the stigma caused by specialized equipment.
Individuals with cleft also face many middle ear infections which can eventually lead to total hearing loss. The Eustachian tubes and external ear canals may be angled or tortuous, leading to food or other contamination of a part of the body that is normally self cleaning.
Speech is both receptive and expressive. We hear and understand spoken language (receptive) We learn to manipulate our mouth, tongue, oral cavity, to express ourselves (expressive).
Hearing is related to learning to speak. Babies with palatal clefts may have compromised hearing and therefore, if the baby cannot hear, it cannot try to mimic the sounds of speech. Thus, even before expressive language acquisition, the baby with the cleft palate is at risk for receptive language acquisition. Because the lips and palate are both used in pronunciation, individuals with cleft usually need the aid of a speech therapist.
Bonding with the infant, socializing with family and community may be interrupted by the unexpected appearance, unusual speech and the surgical interventions necessary. Support for the parents as well as for the child can be pivotal.
 Psychosocial issues
Having a cleft palate/lip does not inevitably lead to a psychosocial problem. Most children who have their clefts repaired early enough are able to have a happy youth and a healthy social life. However, it is important to remember that adolescents with cleft palate/lip are at an elevated risk for developing psychosocial problems especially those relating to self concept, peer relationships, and appearance. It is important for parents to be aware of the psychosocial challenges their adolescents may face and to know where to find professional help if problems arise.
In some countries, cleft lip or palate deformities are considered reasons (either generally tolerated or officially sanctioned) to perform abortion beyond the legal fetal age limit, even though the fetus is not in jeopardy of life or limb. Some human rights activists contend this practice of "cosmetic murder" amounts to eugenics. British clergywoman Joanna Jepson, who suffered from a congenital jaw deformity herself (not a cleft lip or palate as is sometimes reported), has started legal action to stop the practice in the UK  (although in the UK, such an abortion would not be permitted under the 1967 Abortion Act, because a cleft lip and palate is not considered a serious handicap).
The Japanese anime Ghost Stories arose some controversy when people complained of an episode featuring a Kuchisake-onna (a ghost who is said to have a Glasgow smile through her face) because her scar resembled cleft lip.