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Providers Weigh In: What You Need to Know About Cleft and Craniofacial Conditions

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The most common birth defect today in the United States are children born with cleft lip and/or cleft palate with 1 in 500 to 1000 births.  The facial cleft divides the lip, the gum and the roof of the mouth distorting the normal facial appearance and affecting how the infant and the child eats, breathes and speak. The month of July is dedicated to such children as the "Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness" month.  

Other birth defects that the month of July highlights are children who are born with  craniofacial or hemifacial microsomia, 1 in 3,000 to 5,000 births,  where half of the child's face is underdeveloped, affecting the jaw bones and the structures of the ear.  Many of these children are born without ears and the ability to hear, a condition called microtia. The month also brings awareness to children who are born with fused skull and facial joints or sutures called craniosynostosis, 1 in 2,000 births, and much rarer conditions such as Crouzon and Apert Syndrome. The joints in the skull and facial bones are important to allow normal growth of the brain and facial structures. When such joints are fused, brain development and facial development are affected.

Such birth defects are cared for by an experienced team of professionals at the Craniofacial Center at the University of Illinois. The Center is one of the oldest in the United States, established in 1949. The center is specifically dedicated to providing a multidisciplinary approach for comprehensive care. The team includes: plastic & craniofacial surgeons, otolaryngologists, neurosurgeons, ophthalmologists, audiologists, speech and language pathologists, psychologists,  orthodontists, prosthodontists and anaplastologists.

The Craniofacial Center  at UI Health is one of the oldest and largest facilities in the world dedicated to the evaluation and treatment of infants, children, adolescents, and adults with cleft lip and palate and other craniofacial birth conditions.  The center also provides rehabilitation for those with head and neck cancer or who have suffered craniofacial trauma.  "Our mission is to provide state-of-the-art, technologically advanced approaches for cleft and craniofacial care, to  lead the way in research that provides improved care for patients, and to educate  the next generation of care givers for children born cleft and craniofacial care," says Pravin K. Patel, MD, director of Craniofacial Services at UI Health.