A cleft lip is a separation or opening of the lip. Sometimes this can include the base of the nose and the upper jaw. The palate is the roof of the mouth, which extends to the back of the throat. A cleft of the palate is an opening in the roof of the mouth in which two sides of the palate are not joined properly. It is possible to have a cleft lip only, a cleft palate only, or a cleft lip and palate together.
Cleft lip/ palate is relatively common, occurring in approximately 1 in 700 births.
Cleft lip/palate is typically identified in the second trimester of pregnancy using ultrasound. Additional imaging, such as 3D ultrasound and MRI, can allow for better visualization of the palate. As clefting is frequently associated with additional abnormalities and genetic syndromes, including chromosome abnormalities, genetic counseling and testing (such as amniocentesis) are offered. Consultations with neonatology and specialty surgeons are recommended to discuss prognosis and management options after birth.
If the cleft is isolated, meaning there are no other malformations or genetic syndromes, the prognosis is excellent. Surgical repair of the cleft occurs during the first year of life.