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Cleft Lip/Palate

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What is Cleft Lip/Palate?

Cleft lip and cleft palate are birth abnormalities of the mouth and lip. They occur early in pregnancy, when the sides of the lip and the roof of the mouth do not fuse together as they should. Most babies born with cleft lip or cleft palate are otherwise healthy with no other birth defects or genetic problems.

A child can have cleft lip, cleft palate, or both. Cleft lip and cleft palate together are more common in children assigned male at birth.

Cleft palate occurs when the roof of the mouth does not completely close, leaving an opening that can extend into the nasal cavity.

Cleft lip is an abnormality in which the lip does not completely form during fetal development.

What Causes Cleft Lip or Palate?

In most cases, there is no apparent cause of cleft lip or palate. Factors including genetic conditions and the use of certain medications may cause cleft lip or palate in some cases.

What are the Effects on Care for an Infant with Cleft Lip or Palate?

As a parent, it may be stressful to adjust to the obvious abnormality of the face. The degree of abnormality of both cleft lip and cleft palate can vary greatly.

Other possible complications that may be associated with cleft lip and cleft palate include:

By the Numbers


Infants with Cleft Lip/Palate Evaluated by Our Team in the Last 5 Years


Operations by Pediatric Plastic and Craniofacial Surgery Each Year


Patients Seen Each Year by Our Craniofacial Team

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UR Medicine's Treatments for Cleft Lip/Palate

UR Medicine’s craniofacial team provides a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach to nearly 400 babies each year, and our Pediatric Plastic and Craniofacial Surgery Program performs around 450 operations annually on children throughout the Rochester region. 

We also offer nasal alveolar molding (NAM) as a presurgical optimization tool for more complex cleft lip patients.

If a cleft lip is found prenatally at another hospital or by your obstetrical provider, you may be referred to UR Medicine's Maternal-Fetal Care team. Approximately 100 infants with cleft have been imaged and evaluated by our team in the last five years.

Our team will perform a detailed Level II ultrasound to help determine if there are other findings, review your genetic history, and offer testing for certain conditions related to clefting. 

It is important to note that while cleft lip is often, but not always found before birth, cleft palate is often diagnosed after birth as the palate is much more difficult to visualize prenatally. 

Our comprehensive fetal care team will help you prepare for birth and arrange the opportunity to meet with our cleft surgery team before birth to discuss feeding strategies and to learn about the general timeline of care for your child.   

Cleft Care After Birth

Most infants with this finding will not need delivery at UR Medicine's Golisano Children's Hospital unless there are other associated concerns.  

However, these babies will need to follow-up with our craniofacial surgery team soon after birth to make sure feeding, breathing, and weight gain are adequate. Because the nose, lips, and palate may all be affected, infants with these conditions need a specialized team to help them thrive.

What Sets Us Apart?

The Pediatric Craniofacial team at Golisano Children's Hospital offers the region's only center dedicated to the needs and treatment of children born with cleft lip, cleft palate, and other craniofacial anomalies.

When you are facing a pregnancy with a complex condition, just making all the needed appointments can be overwhelming. Our team of fetal and maternal care coordinators will ensure you receive all the information and support you need before and during delivery. 

Our care specialists can help with everything from:

  • Coordinating referrals to UR Medicine’s specialists and experts
  • Navigating appointment schedules
  • Explaining complex testing and test results
  • Planning for delivery
  • Answering your questions at any point during your pregnancy

Maternal-Fetal Medicine Granted AIUM Accreditation 2021-2024


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Pediatric Cleft & Craniofacial Center - Rochester

Golisano Children's Hospital
601 Elmwood Avenue
Rochester, NY 14642

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