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Cleft Lip and Palate: How Adulthood Surgeries Can Be Avoided

Posted on Friday, February 28, 2014


Advancements in medical science are astounding. You may no longer need corrective lenses due to an outpatient laser procedure, 15 pounds can be shed with a body wrap, and there is even surgical “super glue.” Unfortunately, there are still some things that require longer treatment processes, and cleft lip and palate (CLP) is one of them. With approximately 1 of 700 babies born each year with CLP, the need for an improved course of action is a necessity.

The treatment process begins from when these newborns are just a few weeks old when they undergo their first of multiple surgeries that continue through adulthood. This is a long, painstaking routine, and how each individual perceives him/herself throughout will help determine the level of difficulty they will suffer along the way. The article “Living With Cleft Lip and Palate: The Treatment Journey,” in the The Cleft Palate–Craniofacial Journal, provides an in-depth look at how the treatment process can affect a person during different stages of their life, and the impact it has on the person they become.

A study was conducted in which 11 participants with CLP shared their experiences from childhood to adulthood through a series of interviews. These interviews revealed what a strong impact CLP had on their self-perceptions. Some interviewees expressed great difficulty from an early age due to the pain and fatigue of the multiple surgeries as a child combined with feelings of discouragement when segregated in special clinics or waiting rooms. These struggles along with bullying from their peers made them feel “decrepit.” This led to an extremely negative self-perception in adulthood and the feeling of need for additional cosmetic surgeries, hoping for a “magic” fix.

On the other hand, some participants had a very positive treatment process during their childhood. They had wonderful relationships with their healthcare providers, a closeness with their caretakers during the long trips/stays at the hospital, and a feeling of building strength and maturity during such a painful time. These individuals did not feel the need as adults to continue with further cosmetic surgery because they felt a stronger confidence and sense of self.

After analyzing the interviews and looking at other research on CLP, it is easy to see that the treatment process is a delicate one. It seems paramount that healthcare providers, parents, and peers recognize the hardship of living with CLP and work toward helping the individual cope with the process rather than just moving them through it. This will have greater psychological benefits, leading to a strong self-perception as adults.

Full text of the article, “Living With Cleft Lip and Palate: The Treatment Journey,” The Cleft Palate–Craniofacial Journal, Vol. 51, No. 2, 2014, is available at

Source: The Cleft Palate–Craniofacial Journal 

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