How Long Does Cleft Palate Surgery Last?
Cleft palate surgery can take anywhere from two to six hours or more, depending on the repairs needed. Before the surgery starts, an anesthesiologist will give your child medicine to fall asleep, and they will stay in the operating room the entire time to make sure your child feels no pain. Once your child is asleep, a plastic surgeon will make incisions in the palate and rearrange the tissues to close the opening. Normally, no tissue is needed from other parts of the body to complete this procedure. The surgeon will use dissolving stitches to close each layer of tissue and place the muscles in the soft palate in the best position to heal and grow.
Your child may need multiple surgeries to repair the cleft palate completely. If your child also has a cleft lip, it's often repaired before or during cleft palate surgery. If your child has a cleft in the gum, the surgeon will repair it at a later time. This often occurs around the ages of seven or eight when your child's upper jaw has had more time to grow. Plus, as your child grows, they might need additional surgery to improve speech function — this could include lengthening the soft palate or reducing the opening between the nose and the throat.
What to Expect After Cleft Palate Surgery
You can expect swelling and some bloody drainage around the nose and mouth after cleft palate surgery. This includes a small amount of blood in the mucous or saliva, making it appear pink. Now that the opening between the nose and mouth is closed, your child also might have a snottier nose than usual. As the swelling goes down over several weeks, your child should have less congestion. Just like any other surgery or major event, cleft palate surgery might disrupt sleeping and eating habits for a little while. If you have any concerns, please see your medical provider.