Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate

Birth Defects Lawyers new jersey philadelphia Cleft Lip PalateA Cleft Lip or Cleft Palate birth defect can be a scary diagnosis for parents of a newborn. It’s also a birth defect that can cause the need for many surgeries and special provisions in the ways of eating, speaking, and hearing.

Causes of cleft lip or cleft lip range from genetics to drug use during pregnancy – prescription or illegal. It was recently discovered that Topamax (Topimirate), an anti-epileptic also used to treat migraines, can cause cleft lip and cleft palate in newborns when taken by a mother during pregnancy. The FDA has issued a warning and changed the pregnancy class of the drug, alerting doctors to only prescribe the drug to pregnant women if the need outweighs the risks and there are no remaining, viable options for treatment.

What is a Cleft Lip/Palate?

A cleft is a fissure or opening; a non-fusion of the body’s natural structures. A cleft lip and a cleft palate are two separate defects, but are often developed together. A cleft lip doesn’t include a cleft palate structure, but rather an indentation in the lip. If the indentation is only in the lip, this is considered partial or incomplete. If the indentation, or cleft, spreads to the nose, it is a considered a complete cleft lip. If the cleft occurs on one side, it is unilateral, and if it occurs on two sides, bilateral.

Birth Defects Lawyers new jersey philadelphia Cleft Lip Palate
Cleft lips from left to right: unilateral incomplete, unilateral complete, bilateral complete

A cleft palate occurs when the two plates of the skull that form the hard palate (the roof of the mouth) are not completely joined together. In most cases of a cleft palate, the lip and the soft palate are cleft as well.

Birth Defects Lawyers new jersey philadelphia Cleft Lip Palate
Cleft palates from left to right: Incomplete palate, Unilateral lip and palate, bilateral lip and palate

Are There Negative Effects of a Cleft Lip/Palate?

Cleft palates result in a direct connection between the oral cavity and the nasal cavity. This connection is called Velopharyngeal Inadequacy, or VPI. VPI allows air to leak into the nasal cavity, which results in hypernasal voice resonance, and nasal emissions. Other effects of VPI include varied speech articulation errors. This condition could require corrective measures like speech therapy, prosthetics, augmentation of the posterior pharyngeal wall, lengthening of the palate, and other, more invasive surgical procedures.

Cleft palate also may cause problems with feeding, as the open connection between the oral and nasal cavities can result in liquids flowing into that nasal cavity. A cleft palate can lead to many inner ear infections, which can eventually lead to total hearing loss. Difficulty hearing can become another complication all it’s own, as babies learn to speak by hearing and mimicking sounds. Natural development could end up being seriously affected by the development of a cleft palate.

What Kind of Treatments Are Associated with Cleft Lip/Palate?

Cleft Palate treatments are very many. For feeding complications, parents can utilize special bottles that help an infant with the suction that they can’t create due to limitations created by a cleft palate. Speech therapy and exercises can help with the speaking difficulties associated with cleft palates.

Surgery is always a viable option to not just treat, but to repair cleft palates. The first procedure is usually scheduled for 2-3 months after the child is born, and subsequent procedures scheduled as needed. Bilateral clefts usually require at least 2 surgeries to repair.

Surgeries to repair cleft palates are generally successful and result in minimal scarring that fades over time. The earlier in life the procedures are performed, the longer the scar has to fade, and the less time a child has to spend trying to re-learn how to eat and speak.

Birth Defects Lawyers new jersey philadelphia Cleft Lip Palate

My Child Was Born with a Cleft Lip/Palate – Does That Mean I Need a Lawyer?

If your child was born with a cleft lip or palate, there are only a few instances where you would need an attorney. If, during your pregnancy, you were prescribed Topamax for epilepsy or migraines, there is a good chance your child’s cleft lip is a side effect of that medicine. Contacting an attorney will help you determine your legal rights and who should be held liable for the costly surgeries and treatments necessary for your child to live a normal and healthy life.

The birth defects lawyers at the Mininno Law Office work on a contingency basis, meaning that all services are free unless and until you receive a settlement or verdict. Therefore, if you have any questions or concerns regarding your use of Topamax, contact the Mininno Law Office for a FREE consultation. The attorneys are happy to answer any questions you may have. You may also call at (856) 833-0600 in New Jersey, or (215) 567-2380 in Philadelphia.

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