Race plays huge role in cleft lip /palate deformities


VOA FILE PHOTO - A doctor examines a cleft-lipped baby during a medical evaluation provided ...
VOA FILE PHOTO - A doctor examines a cleft-lipped baby during a medical evaluation provided by Operation Smile volunteers at San Felipe hospital in Tegucigalpa November 14, 2012.

A cleft lip or cleft palate is one of the most common birth defects worldwide.

Before birth, babies can have a split, or cleft, in their lip and the roof of the mouth.

This split normally closes between the 6th to 11th week of pregnancy.

If this doesn’t happen, and the baby is born with this split, doctors can usually fix it.

But if the cleft isn’t fixed, the baby can have serious health problems and a shortened life.

In the U.S. and other developed countries, corrective surgery is done when a baby is between three months and 18 months old.

Surgical intervention is less common in less developed nations.

Dr. Albert Oh, a pediatric plastic surgeon, said he performs one or two corrective surgeries a week at Children’s National hospital in Washington.

“We’re one of the busiest centers in the United States, and so my partner and I, we average over a hundred primary cases per year.”

About one out of every 1,500 babies in the U.S. is born with a cleft palate.

One out of every 900 babies is born with cleft lip. Babies of African descent have lower odds — one out of every 1,200 births.

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