Fortis Memorial Research Institute (FMRI), in collaboration with Fortis Foundation and Operation Smile India have joined hands to launch a Comprehensive Clinic for Cleft Lip, Palate and other facial deformities for children born with congenital deformity.
The comprehensive cleft care services include services of Surgeons, Anesthesiologists, Pediatricians, Speech Therapists, ENT Specialists, Child life psychologists, and Dental/orthodontists. Under the joint initiative, free surgeries to children from less privileged sections will be provided to help overcome their condition and help them live a normal childhood. These children will also be given free speech therapy sessions, after the surgery.
The clinic was launched by Nandana Sen, International Actor, Child Rights Activist and Writer, and the ambassador for Operation Smile India. A cleft is a gap or opening where the body structures that form before birth do not fuse as any normal body structure does. The deformity is caused by abnormal facial development during gestation. This can also affect other parts of the face such as the eyes, ears, nose, cheeks, and forehead.
The outcome of this non-fusion condition may pose problems with feeding, ear disease, speech and socialization. Individuals with cleft also face many middle ear infections which may eventually lead to hearing loss. A cleft lip or palate can be successfully treated with surgery, especially so if conducted soon after birth or in early childhood.
Approximately 1 in 700 children born have a cleft lip or a cleft palate or both. It is estimated that 1 out of 10 children born with cleft lip or palate suffer from infant mortality. Nandana Sen, Ambassador for Operation Smile India, said, “A smile changes everything. A Cleft lip may seem like an aesthetic problem but it is actually a survival issue. Children with untreated cleft lips and palates do not have the type of life that every child has the right to have and we want to change that so every child can get a good quality of life as they grow up.”
According to Dr Rashmi Taneja, Chairperson, Operation Smile and Senior Consultant, Plastic and Cosmetic Surgery, “Approximately 30,000 children are born with clefts annually. The sooner a child is operated;they have a better chance of leading a quality life. Together, we are dedicated to make a difference to these young children.” Dr Gagan Sabharwal, Maxillofacial Surgeon, Dental Sciences, FMRI, shared “Only 20-30% children born with cleft actually receive corrective surgeries.
Cleft lip surgery is done at the age of 3-6 months of age depending upon the nutritional status and health of the baby. On the other hand, repair of a cleft palate is done between 10 to 12 months of age before the development of speech. This has to be followed by speech therapy to make it effective”.
“This is a first of its kind centre offering comprehensive services for Cleft Lip and Palate care. A child born with cleft will have a range of treatments under the same roof starting from a surgery to speech therapy to orthodontic treatment and cosmetic surgeries such as rhinoplasty and corrective jaw surgery (if needed) over their developmental years, under pediatric guidance,” said Dr Dilpreet Brar, Regional Director, FMRI. Babies with palatal clefts may have compromised hearing and therefore, if the baby cannot hear, it cannot try to mimic the sounds of speech.
Thus, even before expressive language acquisition, the baby with the cleft palate is at risk for receptive language acquisition. Because the lips and palate are both used in pronunciation, individuals with cleft usually need the aid of a speech therapist.