Pediatric Cleft and Craniofacial Anomalies Center

Cleft Palate Surgery

Cleft palate is a common and—fortunately—correctable birth defect. Surgery is required to close the gap in the palate, or "roof" of the mouth. This is a simple operation, but the lifetime benefits are immeasurable. Our skilled plastic surgeon and the surgical team at Golisano Children's Hospital will do its best to ensure your child's comfort and safety, as well as your peace of mind during the procedure. Often, it helps to know what to expect following surgery.

What to Expect

After surgery, your child will have an IV until he/she is able to take fluids well by mouth. Generally you will be able to breast feed your baby or feed him or her clear liquids by bottle soon after surgery. Once your child is tolerating small amounts well, he will be gradually increased to formula or foods according to age. Your child will not be able to eat chips, crackers or any hard foods, or use a pacifier for 6 weeks after surgery. Your child should not use a straw because it could damage the cleft repair. Water should be offered after each feeding or you may gently rinse the mouth out with a syringe and water. DO NOT place up towards the palate to prevent injury.

  • Stitches. You will find sutures (stitches) on the palate where the cleft was repaired. The sutures will dissolve on their own after four days. There should be no use of pacifiers after surgery.
  • Healing. Immediately following surgery and during the short-term healing period, it is important that your child does not rub his or her face against bed linens, clothing, toys, etc., because it could disturb the sutures (stitches) and cause infection. For this reason, comfortable restraints will be applied to your child's arms to limit contact with the surgery site.
  • Swelling and drainage. It is normal to have some swelling at the surgery site and some bloody drainage coming from the nose and mouth. This drainage will decrease over a short time.
  • Pain. Your child will experience some soreness that can be relieved by a non-aspirin pain medication such as Tylenol or Motrin. You may also receive a prescription for a stronger pain reliever if your child's pain is not relieved by Tylenol or Motrin. This pain may last as long as three days.
  • Nasal congestion. It is not unusual for children to experience nasal congestion after this surgery. You may notice nasal snorting, mouth breathing, and a decrease in the appetite. You can use saline nasal spray after your child goes home to help relieve congestion.
  • Antibiotics. Antibiotic medication will be given to your child to prevent infection while in the hospital. This medication will not be continued when you take your child home.
  • Cleaning the incision. It is important to keep the incision clean at home. You may cleanse the site with mild soap and water and apply a thin layer of antibiotic ointment. This helps keep the site free from infection and provides the best scar results. Your child's nurse will show you how to keep the site clean.

Going Home

As a general rule, most children will go home the day after surgery. Stitches will be removed 5-7 days later during a follow-up appointment. Your child may return to most normal activities. No contact sports or rough play is allowed until your doctor states otherwise.

When to Call the Doctor

Be sure to contact your child's pediatrician if he/she experiences any of the following:

  • Fever of 101 or higher
  • Significant amount of red blood coming from the incision
  • Drainage that has a foul odor or is green/yellow in color
  • If your child is not eating or drinking enough
  • If he or she is not putting out adequate amounts of urine

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To contact the Pediatric Cleft and Craniofacial Center or a team member, please call (585) 273-FACE.

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Success Stories

See pictures of the beautiful children who have been helped by the Pediatric Cleft and Craniofacial team at Golisano Children's Hospital.

See our patients before and after surgery.