Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate Program
The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is one of the nation’s leading centers for treating cleft lip and palate. The Cleft Lip/Cleft Palate Program treats over 100 children every year, and with each case, we oversee the child’s transformation from beginning to end to provide the best possible outcome.
At CHOP, we are dedicated to building lifelong relationships with our patients and their families from the moment they come to our program. Our staff endorses a team-focused approach to treating cleft patients, underlining the necessity of cooperation among surgeons, pediatricians, orthodontists and other specialists in order to optimize our patients’ quality of life.
Cleft lip/cleft palate - the condition
Cleft lip and palate are congenital abnormalities of the mouth and lip. A normal fetus has a split lip and palate, but early in pregnancy, the sides of the lip and the roof of the mouth should fuse. Failure of fusion results in cleft lip, which ranges from mild (notching of the lip) to severe (opening from lip to nose), and/or cleft palate, which can extend from the front of the mouth to the throat and often includes the lip.
Learn about cleft lip and cleft palate, their causes, repair surgery and follow-up care.
Make an appointment
To make an appointment with the Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate Program, please call 215-590-2471.
We look forward to working with you and your child. In order to ensure that the process goes smoothly, please bring the following items and information with you to your appointment.
Your child's evaluation
Your child's initial evaluation will include:
- Examination by our multidisciplinary team of plastic surgeons
- Imaging studies as needed, along with referral to other pediatric specialists when indicated
- Discussion of cleft lip/cleft palate surgery and follow-up
Our cleft repair team consists of plastic surgeons, pediatricians, orthodontists, pediatric dentists, speech specialists, otolaryngologists, audiologists, genetic counselors, nurse team coordinators, and social workers, all of whom have the same goal — improving your child’s quality of life.
A multi-disciplinary team approach
Many different skill sets are needed to help with the problems that can occur with cleft abnormalities. The following are some of the members of your child’s team:
- Plastic/craniofacial surgeon - A surgeon with specialized training in the diagnosis and treatment of skeletal abnormalities of the skull, facial bones, and soft tissue; will work closely with the orthodontists and other specialists to coordinate a surgical plan for your child.
- Pediatrician - A physician who will follow your child as he grows and help coordinate the multiple specialists involved in your child’s care.
- Orthodontist - A dentist who evaluates the position and alignment of your child’s teeth and coordinates a treatment plan with the surgeon and other specialists.
- Speech and language specialist - A professional who will perform a comprehensive speech evaluation to assess communicative abilities and closely monitor your child throughout all developmental stages.
- Otolaryngologist (ear-nose-throat specialist) - A physician who will assist in the evaluation and management of ear infections and hearing loss, which may be side effects of your child’s cleft abnormality.
- Audiologist (hearing specialist) - A professional who will assist in the evaluation and management of hearing difficulties your child may have.
- Genetic counselor - A professional who reviews medical and family history and counsels your family about risk for recurrence in future pregnancies.
- Nurse team coordinator - A registered nurse who combines experience in pediatric nursing with specialization in the care of your child; acts as liaison between your family and the cleft team.
- Social worker - A professional who provides guidance and counseling for your child and your family in dealing with the social and emotional aspects of a cleft abnormality; assists your family with community resources and referrals (i.e., support groups).
Cleft lip/cleft palate surgeons
Maria Taffoni Hetlinger, AuD, CCC-A
Kim St. Lawrence, MSW
Cleft lip/cleft palate resources for families