Some people mistakenly believe that plastic surgeons are only concerned with elective surgeries meant to enhance a person’s looks. From rhinoplasty (nose jobs) to wrinkles, plastic surgeons can help many people feel better about themselves.
However, plastic surgeons are also called in to help children and adults who are affected by certain facial birth defects, including cleft lip and cleft palate. These surgeries enhance a patient’s quality of life by removing barriers to the normal function of the face and mouth. Dr. Edward Farrior, an expert in plastic surgery from Tampa, explains how these corrective surgeries can help to change a patient’s life and make a positive difference in the community.
A cleft lip happens when the lip does not connect across, leaving an opening in the lip and below the nose. Babies with a cleft lip often cannot breastfeed and have difficulties drinking from a bottle as well. Cleft lip needs to be corrected in order for these children to live normal lives. In isolated cases, a patient may reach adulthood before this surgery is performed. This generally happens in developing countries.
Cleft lip surgery involves making incisions to allow the doctor to draw the skin together. The lips must also be repositioned in order to create a circular arrangement. Children with a cleft lip generally have a deformity of the nose as well, and the nose is reconstructed at the same time as the cleft lip surgery. After the surgical healing process is complete, the child or adult will be able to suck, swallow, and eat normally. This can present a huge improvement in the patient’s quality of life. Plastic surgeons who are able to perform this procedure are important parts of the community.
Cleft palate and cleft lip often occur together. Cleft palate is a hole in the roof of the mouth which results in an abnormal channel into the nose. During fetal development, the left and right sides of the face and mouth do not fuse correctly. A cleft palate prevents a child from sucking, swallowing, and breathing normally. A cleft palate can also cause problems with development, growth, hearing, speech development, and ear infections. It is crucial to treat a cleft palate early in the child’s development, somewhere in the range of 6 to 18 months.
A cleft palate can be caused by genetic and environmental factors. It is possible that a mother’s substance use during pregnancy may cause cleft palate. Most often, the condition is caused by a genetic factor.
Plastic surgery to correct a cleft palate is more involved than the surgery to correct a cleft lip. First, a brace is placed into the child’s mouth to help keep it open. Cuts are made on either side of the palate running along the cleft. The tissue attached to the bone is loosened so that it can be stretched across the gap. A cut is made across the gums. This leaves an opening to allow the palate tissue to be stretched as well. These incisions are left open to heal for three weeks.
Next, the inner layer of nasal tissue is closed using stitches that dissolve. The outer layer of tissue is then closed, also with sutures that will dissolve. In the end, the site of surgery looks like a “z”.
Tampa residents are fortunate to be able to access plastic surgery that can help to correct conditions that interfere with a child or adult’s quality of life. When Dr. Edward Farrior performs this surgery, young people will be able to eat, drink, swallow, and speak normally. This is vital to a patient’s growth and development.