Cleft Lip Repair Surgery | MedStar Health

When your baby is developing in the womb, he or she has a chance of developing cleft lip, one of the most common birth defects of the head and neck. Cleft lip is an opening or split in the upper lip that is the result of parts of the lip not fusing together during development. It can range from being a small opening on the edge of the lip or may be larger and extend into the nose. The condition may inhibit your child’s ability to eat, breathe, and speak normally. If your baby is affected by a cleft lip, our team can help correct the condition.

Most children require just one reconstructive surgical procedure to restore a normal shape and function. Cleft lip repair is typically performed within the first 12 months after birth. During surgery, your child’s surgeon will make incisions on both sides of the cleft to create flaps of tissue. These flaps are then stitched together to close the cleft.

While this procedure will repair the cleft lip, additional surgery may be necessary in the future to help improve your child’s appearance.


Image of a child who had cleft lip repair surgery

Planning and recovery

Before scheduling a surgery, your child may need a series of appointments to help assess the cleft lip and ensure your child is growing and feeding well. Your child’s medical team may suggest non-surgical treatment to help improve the final surgical outcome.

Cleft lip repair at MedStar Health is performed in a hospital setting and generally takes about 2 hours. Your child will need to stay overnight after surgery. After the surgery, your child’s care team will discuss additional steps to care that may be needed while your child’s lip continues to heal.

Pain medication may be prescribed to help alleviate any pain after the surgery. Expect healing to continue for several weeks as the swelling goes down.

Frequently asked questions

  • Is cleft lip repair covered by insurance?

    Cleft lip repair is covered by almost all insurance plans. Please contact your insurance company to determine your specific coverage.

  • Do I need a referral to your office?

    If you’re exploring options for insurance coverage, you may need to request a referral from your primary care doctor, depending on your health insurance plan. Check with your carrier to see if medical coverage is an option for you and, if so, whether a referral is required.

  • What are the risks of cleft lip repair?

    Every surgical procedure involves some risk. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the risks of cleft lip repair include:

    • Anesthesia risks

    • Allergies to materials and medicines used during surgery

    • Bleeding (hematoma)

    • Damage to deeper structures such as nerves, blood vessels, and muscles may occur and be temporary or permanent

    • Infection

    • Irregular healing of scars including contracture (puckering or pulling together of tissues)

    • Poor healing of incisions

    • Possibility of revisional surgery

Our locations

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MedStar Georgetown University Hospital

3800 Reservoir Rd. NW
Washington, DC, 20007