little girl wearing backpack sitting on dad's shoulders looking at a sunset and lifting arms up as a sign of strength

July is National Cleft & Craniofacial Awareness & Prevention Month

The Washington University Facial Plastic Surgery Center physicians have performed thousands of plastic surgery procedures throughout their careers — both cosmetic and medically necessary reconstructive surgeries.

While many of these procedures provide challenges for the surgeons, one of the most complex and rewarding procedures may be rhinoplasty for cleft lip and palate patients. Dr. John Chi, who has cared for both adult and pediatric cleft patients, will soon be traveling to Guatemala on a medical mission trip to care for children with cleft lip and palate.

Rhinoplasty Experience Matters

“These adult patients are a very unique subset of our patients who present for rhinoplasty, and are quite complicated for several reasons,” Dr. Chi says. “Many of these patients have had a primary rhinoplasty at the time of their cleft lip repair as an infant, followed by a revision rhinoplasty as a teen. By the time these patients present as adults, they are being evaluated for a possible third rhinoplasty.”

Dr. Chi and his colleagues, Dr. Gregory Branham and Dr. Emily Spataro, recommend that adult cleft lip and palate patients seeking rhinoplasty first consider their goals for the surgery.

Patients should consult with a fellowship-trained facial plastic surgeon and know that they will need to be evaluated by a rhinoplasty surgeon with experience in cleft lip nasal deformity.

Unique Issues

“Cleft lip and palate patients have unique anatomical issues that should be considered when performing a rhinoplasty,” Dr. Chi says. “They may need additional grafts or incisions to address these anatomical differences.”

Because rhinoplasty in this population is a medically necessary procedure, it is typically covered by insurance.

“These patients are often self-referred or sent by an otolaryngologist,” Dr. Chi adds. “Many of these patients seek out our practice given our expertise in rhinoplasty.”

Rhinoplasty is a complex and nuanced surgery, so it requires a surgeon with specific training and a unique skillset.

“While cleft lip and palate patients may need additional grafts or incisions compared to the typical rhinoplasty patients, their post-operative recovery and healing should be very comparable,” Dr. Chi says. “Their recovery time can include approximately one to two weeks for bruising and three to four weeks for swelling to subside.”

It is important that patients are comfortable and confident in their surgeon prior to this procedure, so an initial consultation is highly recommended to ensure individual patients’ needs are being met.

For more information or to schedule a consultation with the physicians at the Facial Plastic Surgery Center, call 314-996-3880 or click here.