Sign InSign Up
All Posts

Cleft Lip And Palate

Discover the essential facts about cleft lip and palate, from causes and treatment options to the impact on speech and appearance, in this comprehensive article.

USMLE Guide: Cleft Lip and Palate


Cleft lip and palate (CLP) is a congenital craniofacial abnormality that affects the lip and/or the roof of the mouth. It is one of the most common birth defects worldwide, with significant implications for the affected individual's appearance, speech, feeding, and overall quality of life. This guide aims to provide a concise overview of the key points related to CLP for the USMLE.


  • CLP occurs in approximately 1 in 700 live births.
  • It is more common in certain populations, such as Asians and Native Americans, and less common in Africans.
  • Males are more prone to cleft lip, while cleft palate is more prevalent in females.


  • The development of CLP involves a complex interplay of genetic and environmental factors.
  • Genetic predisposition, maternal smoking, alcohol consumption, certain medications, and maternal nutritional deficiencies (e.g., folic acid) contribute to the development of CLP.
  • CLP arises during embryogenesis, with the lip forming between the 4th and 7th weeks of gestation, and the palate forming between the 5th and 12th weeks.

Clinical Presentation

  • Cleft lip: Visible separation or gap in the upper lip, which can range from a small notch to a complete bilateral cleft extending to the nostrils.
  • Cleft palate: An opening or gap in the roof of the mouth, which can involve the soft palate, hard palate, or both.
  • Both conditions can occur alone or together.


  • Feeding difficulties: Infants with CLP may have trouble sucking and swallowing due to the gap in the lip or palate, leading to poor weight gain.
  • Speech problems: The separation in the lip and/or palate affects the ability to produce certain sounds, resulting in speech difficulties and potential long-term speech delays.
  • Dental issues: Malocclusion, delayed eruption of teeth, and dental caries are common in individuals with CLP.
  • Ear infections: Eustachian tube dysfunction due to palatal abnormalities predisposes to recurrent otitis media.
  • Psychological impact: CLP can cause psychosocial challenges due to visible facial differences, potentially leading to low self-esteem and social isolation.


  • Clinical examination: The characteristic physical findings of cleft lip and/or palate can be identified during a physical examination after birth.
  • Prenatal ultrasound: Cleft lip can often be detected during routine obstetric ultrasounds, while cleft palate may be more challenging to visualize.


  • Surgical repair: Surgical intervention is the mainstay of treatment for CLP. Cleft lip repair is typically performed around 3-6 months of age, while cleft palate repair is usually done between 6-12 months.
  • Multidisciplinary approach: A team of healthcare professionals, including plastic surgeons, otolaryngologists, speech therapists, and orthodontists, is involved in the comprehensive management of CLP.
  • Feeding support: Infants with CLP may require specialized feeding techniques, such as using specialized bottles or nipples, to ensure adequate nutrition.
  • Speech therapy: Early intervention with speech therapy is crucial to address speech difficulties and promote normal language development.
  • Dental care: Regular dental follow-up and interventions, including orthodontic treatment, are essential to manage dental problems associated with CLP.


  • With appropriate surgical intervention, multidisciplinary care, and support, individuals with CLP can achieve good functional and aesthetic outcomes.
  • However, long-term follow-up is necessary to address any ongoing issues related to speech, dental health, and psychosocial well-being.


Cleft lip and palate is a common congenital anomaly that requires early identification, multidisciplinary management, and long-term follow-up. Understanding the pathogenesis, diagnosis, and management of CLP is crucial for healthcare professionals involved in the care of affected individuals.

USMLE Test Prep
a StudyNova service


GuidesStep 1 Sample QuestionsStep 2 Sample QuestionsStep 3 Sample QuestionsPricing

Install App coming soon

© 2024 StudyNova, Inc. All rights reserved.