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  • How Are Oral Clefts Treated?

    According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), recent data shows that pregnant women who take Topamax or its generic form are twenty times more likely to give birth to babies that develop abnormal deformities, such as cleft palate or cleft lips than women who did not take the drug. It is believed that the birth defects occur during the first three months of pregnancy, so some women may be at risk before they realize they are pregnant. For these reasons, experts have suggested that physicians warn their patients, particularly those of childbearing age, about the dangers and risk of defects during the patient’s first trimester.

    Russell Katz, head of the Division of Neurology Products, announced that physicians should reconsider prescribing the medicine to females of childbearing age, and that alternatives to Topamax should be considered, particularly ones that have a lower risk of birth abnormalities.

    What is an Oral Cleft?

    Cleft palate and cleft lips are not common in the U.S. These deformities occur when a person’s mouth does not completely develop. These conditions can cause a split in a person’s lip or a hole in the roof of the mouth. These deformities are serious in nature because they may cause other developmental issues and make it extremely difficult to eat normally and obtain adequate nutrition. Cleft lip and cleft palate may also cause speech problems, and they may lead to ear infections.

    Treatment of Oral Clefts

    Oral clefts can be corrected with surgery, but several procedures may be necessary. According to the MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia online, cleft lip repair is usually done when a baby is between six and twelve weeks old. The infant is placed under anesthesia, and the surgeon will trim and sew the child’s lip together. The physician will use small stitches to minimize scarring.

    Also according to the MedlinePlus website, cleft palate is typically treated when a baby is older, usually somewhere between nine months and one year in age. Performing the surgery at such a young age is said to lower the risk of speech trouble later in life. During the cleft repair, the child is anesthetized. The surgeon will take tissue from the roof of the mouth and position it over the child’s soft palate in order to cover up the soft palate. It is not uncommon for a child to have multiple surgeries to fix the problem.

    In addition to the above, the physician may also operate on the tip of the baby’s nose, as the nose can sometimes be deformed by these birth defects.

    In most cases, children who undergo the aforementioned surgeries will recover well. However, as with all surgeries, there are some risks involved. Cleft surgery may cause abnormalities in bone growth in the middle of the patient’s face. The surgery may also cause an abnormal connection between the patient’s nose and mouth. A physician or surgeon can explain these risks and any additional ones that a child may face from a surgical procedure.

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