How Long Does It Take to Recover from Cleft Lip and Palate Surgery?

May 20th, 2024

Malformations of the lip and palate (the roof of the mouth) are incredibly common, affecting roughly one out of every 600 children. When left untreated, these conditions can cause complications with speech development and eating. They can also increase a child’s risk of ear infections and related issues. Fortunately, both cleft lips and cleft palates are easily treated through surgical intervention.

The surgery itself usually takes a couple of hours, and your child will be under anesthesia the entire time. Once the surgery is over, your child may need to remain in the hospital for observation for one or two days, just to ensure the healing process begins as it is supposed to.

From there, your child will be discharged home for further rest and recovery. For parents, having some questions and concerns about what this recovery period entails is normal.

Recovery from Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate Repair

Following these oral surgeries, your child will have incisions as well as some variations to their normal behavior. The incisions may take three to four weeks to heal, and will require ongoing monitoring and care. The stitches used for these incisions typically dissolve on their own, meaning there is usually no need to have a doctor remove them. As for behavior, most little ones are back to their normal selves within a week of surgery.

As for what parents can expect specifically, here are a few guidelines.

  • Eating and drinking. While baby food is usually fine following surgery, it may need to be watered down to make it easier for your child to swallow. Straws should not be used, so you may need to feed your child with a spoon or syringe. Most children have a limited appetite for the first few days after surgery, but it is still wise to try to feed them as best as possible.
  • Discomfort. Physical discomfort is normal after any surgical procedure, but prescription and over-the-counter medications can both minimize any pain your child feels. Physical discomfort usually subsides within the first week or so.
  • Bleeding. It is very normal for your child to have blood in their mucus or saliva, which may last a couple of days following surgery.

While these symptoms are common and predictable, you will want to call your surgeon if you notice that your child has a fever, seems to have difficulty breathing, or exhibits any signs of infection (such as pus).

Overall, with proper care and awareness, the challenges of recovery pave the way for a brighter, healthier future for your child after cleft lip and palate surgery. If you have any questions about the process or recovery, contact the doctors at Carolinas Center For Cleft Lip, Palate, and Craniofacial Surgery today.