Sunday, November 25, 2012

What is a Cleft?

A cleft is an abnormal opening or a fissure in an anatomical structure that is normally closed. A cleft lip is the result or failure of the parts of the lip to come together early in the life of the fetus.  Cleft palate occurs when the parts of the roof of the mouth do not fuse normally during fetal development, leaving a large opening between the oral cavity and the nasal cavity.  Clefts can vary in length and in width, depending on the degree of fusion of the individual parts.  It is important to not that when there is a cleft lip and/or palate, the structures are all present but have not fused together normally.  In addition, the structures may be hypoplastic or underdeveloped, in their formation.

A cleft of the lip and/or palate is a congenital malformation that occurs in utero during the first trimester of pregnancy.  Because a cleft is due to a disruption in embryological development, clefts typically follow the normal fusion lines.  The interference in embryological development of the mid face and oral cavity is often associated with malformations of the nose, eyes, and other facial structures as well.  When other congenital anomalies occur along with the cleft lip and palate, they usually have a genetic etiology and are part of a multiple malformation syndrome.

A cleft lip presents with more serious cosmetic concerns than cleft palate, but a cleft palate presents with more serious functional problems, particularly problems with speech.  Individuals born with both cleft lip and cleft palate are at risk for problems with aesthetics, feeding, speech, resonance, and hearing.  Although there are many commonalities in the appearance of the basic clefting conditions, clefts also give rise to unique anatomical and functional deviations.  These deviations are due to variations in etiology, but are also due to various forms of treatment ti which the patient has been subjected.  Therefore, the severity in aesthetics and function ranges from barely noticeable to severely affected and malformed.

Information cited : Kummer, A. 2008, Cleft Palate and Craniofacial anomolies:Effects on speech and resonance, Delmar: Clifton Park, New York.

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