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Introduction to Cleft and Craniofacial Team Care
Children born with clefts or other craniofacial conditions often face multiple, complex health problems. Experience has shown that these complex issues can best be managed by an interdisciplinary team of specialists who work together, and with the family, to create and update the child’s health care plan. Depending on the child’s individual needs, these specialists may include:
- an audiologist (who assesses hearing);
- a surgeon (such as a plastic surgeon, an oral/maxillofacial surgeon,a craniofacial surgeon, or a neurosurgeon);
- a pediatric dentist or other dental specialist (such as a prosthodontist, who makes prosthetic devices for the mouth);
- an orthodontist (who straightens the teeth and alligns the jaws);
- a geneticist (who screens patients for craniofacial syndromes and helps parents and adult patients understand the chances of having more children with these conditions);
- a nurse (who helps with feeding problems and provides ongoing supervision of the child’s health);
- an otolaryngologist (an “ear nose and throat” doctor, or “ENT”);
- a pediatrician (to monitor overall health and development);
- a psychologist or other mental health specialist (to support the family and assess any adjustment problems);
- a speech-language pathologist (who assesses not only speech but also feeding problems);
- and other necessary specialists who treat specific aspects of complex craniofacial anomalies.
When these specialists work together, and with the family, as an interdisciplinary team, treatment goals can be individualized for each child, and parents and health care providers can make the best choices for treatment by consulting with each other. Since growth is a significant factor in the ultimate outcome of treatment, the child must be assessed thoroughly and regularly by the team until young adulthood.
The Parameters for Evaluation and Treatment of Patients with Cleft Lip/Palate or Other Craniofacial Anomalies document summarizes the current guidelines for team care endorsed by the American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association. By adhering to these guidelines, teams are promoting the best possible outcome for children born with clefts or other craniofacial birth defects.
For more information about cleft lip/palate, or a craniofacial team, call
Or see the links above.
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