Cleft Palate and Facial Deformities Team Provide Family Supp
Lewis, MD, DMD
Cleft lip and palate are common birth defects, occurring in about 1 in 800
births in the U.S.
Each year, on average, three to five babies with cleft lip, cleft palate, or
both are delivered at Cayuga
An estimated five or six more babies are born elsewhere in the region and
another handful of young children with cleft abnormalities move to Tompkins County with their families.
Cleft lip is a split or opening in the upper lip-usually on one side or the
other-which may extend up to the nose. Of the babies born with cleft lip,
almost half also have cleft palate, which is a gap in
the roof of the mouth along the midline. In some cases, the upper gum has a
notch or an opening as well. Most of these children have multidisciplinary
issues, related to feeding, speech and language development, and appearance.
They may need between five to ten operations, from infancy to adulthood, to
correct deformities of the lip, mouth, and nose. Some have additional birth
deformities, hearing loss, neurological deficits, and problems relating to
other organ systems.
In 1996, we organized a group of Tompkins
County medical and health-care
specialists to form the Cleft Palate and Facial Deformities Team, at Cayuga Medical
Center. We discovered
that, although local medical and therapeutic expertise was plentiful and of the
highest caliber in our community, there were still children and adults with
facial deformities and clefts whose needs were still not being met. The
services required to address the scope of their needs often overwhelm families.
By organizing the channels of communication between specialists in the medical
community and families, we knew we could make a difference for these families.
About the team
The Cleft Palate and Facial Deformities Team includes approximately twenty
experienced specialists in oral and maxillofacial surgery, plastic surgery, pediatrics,
ear-nose-throat, maternal-child nursing, lactation specialists, pediatric
dentistry and orthodontics, audiology, speech and occupational therapy,
developmental psychology, the early intervention program, social work, parent
support, and genetics. We meet on a regular basis at Cayuga Medical
Twice a year we hold clinics at the medical center at which we typically see
about twelve children. Following the clinic, team members meet to discuss their
evaluations of each child and to develop treatment recommendations. These
recommendations are then compiled in a written report, which I review with the
family and share with the child's primary-care physician and others who are
involved in the child's care. Recommendations relating to therapy and education
are shared with the child's school.
Because we believe it is best for every child to receive the care he or she
needs, members of the team participate on a voluntary basis. We make sure that
evaluation and treatment options are available regardless of a family's
financial resources. This means that children with complex treatment needs from
families with insufficient resources receive the same level of care as those
whose families have adequate coverage.
At Cayuga Medical Center,
our initial contact with newborns and families occurs on the same day a baby is
born with facial deformities. The director of Maternal-Child Care and I both
meet with the infant's parents to evaluate the infant and to provide assurance,
support, and information. We begin the coordination of services right away.
Often, the first intervention is to help with breast-feeding.
For children who are past infancy, the best way to initiate the coordination
of services is to call my office at (607) 277-7007. A number of children have
been referred to the team by the school system or other health-care providers;
some are children who have moved here with their families and are in search of
a unified treatment team. We are eager to provide services to children of all
ages, and we treat adults, as well.
If you call us needing help, the answer will be yes. We will see your child
right away and get you involved with the team and the clinic. Since we began
the Cleft Palate and Facial Deformities Team in 1996, we have evaluated more
than 100 children and a number of adults with cleft lip, cleft palate, and
other deformities. We've had real success: the post-operative photos tell the
story. Our initial infants from 1996 are now in school leading happy, normal
Dr. Lewis is board certified in facial
cosmetic surgery and oral and maxillofacial surgery and is a faculty member at
the University of
Rochester School of
Medicine and Dentistry. He serves on the medical staff of Cayuga Medical
Center and chairs the
Cleft Palate and Facial Deformities Team. His practice is Cayuga Facial Surgery
and he can be reached at (607) 277-7007.