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Clefts are most frequent birth defect in the United States, says CDC
Children's Hospital of Atlanta

Cleft lip and palate now comprise the most common birth defects in the United States, according to a report issued on January 8 by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia. Although the statistics may be frightening, there are literally thousands of professionals throughout our country who have the knowledge and expertise to care for patients with these disorders of the head and face.

“The Center for Craniofacial Disorders at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta is one of the leading centers in the country for treating cleft lip and palate,” said John Riski, Ph.D., Director of Speech Pathology at the Center for Craniofacial Disorders at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. “We combine cutting edge technology with a remarkable staff to ensure that our cleft patients have the best possible resources available to them.”

A cleft lip is a separation of the two sides of the lip. The separation often includes the bones of the upper jaw and/or upper gum. A cleft palate is an opening in the roof of the mouth in which the two sides of the palate did not fuse, or join together, as the unborn baby was developing. These birth defects occur very early in pregnancy. The majority of clefts appear to be due to a combination of genetics and environmental influences and the risks of recurrence in a family are dependent upon many factors.

“A child born with a cleft may be faced with multiple and complex problems including, but not limited to, early feeding and nutritional problems that can lead to difficulties in growth and development; middle ear infections; hearing loss; deviations in speech and resonance; dento-facial and orthodontic abnormalities; and possible psychosocial adjustment problems,” said Riski.

“Therefore, the child frequently requires several different types of services, e.g., surgery, dental/orthodontic care, and speech therapy, all of which need to be provided in a synchronized manner over a period of years. This coordinated care is provided by interdisciplinary cleft palate/craniofacial teams like our team at Children’s, which is comprised of professionals from a variety of health care disciplines. When our specialists work together, treatment goals can be customized for each child, and parents and health care providers can make the best choices for treatment by consulting with each other,” Riski continued. “In fact, multidisciplinary team care is recommended for children with clefts in the “Editorial Note” section of the CDC report.”

For more information, please visit the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Web site at www.choa.org or the ACPA website at www.acpa-cpf.org. A related organization, The Cleft Palate Foundation (CPF), focuses on research as well as information and services to individuals affected by facial birth defects. CPF’s website is www.cleftline.org.

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, one of the leading pediatric healthcare systems in the country, is a not-for-profit organization that benefits from the generous philanthropic and volunteer support of our community. With 430 licensed beds in two hospitals and more than 450,000 annual patient visits, Children’s is nationally recognized for excellence in cancer, cardiac, neonatal, orthopaedic and transplant care, as well as in many other pediatric specialties. Child magazine ranks Children’s as one of the top 10 children’s hospitals nationwide and Children’s is among U.S.News & World Report’s top pediatric hospitals. To learn more about Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, visit www.choa.org or call 404-250-KIDS.

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