Trust an Expert with Your Child’s Cleft Lip and Palate Repair

Cleft lip and cleft palate originate in the womb, when parts of the developing baby’s mouth and lip fail to completely fuse. Cleft lip and palate repair involves the connection of soft palate muscles and the rearrangement of tissues to close the cleft. Dr. Dennis Hurwitz strives to provide an improved quality of life for infants and children who experience this common and challenging facial defect.

As prior clinical director of the University of Pittsburgh Cleft-Craniofacial Center, Dr. Hurwitz has extensive experience in performing cleft lip and palate repair in Pittsburgh, PA. He performs the initial surgery on infants to help them achieve a normal facial appearance and oral function. He also offers revision surgery to refine cosmetic results after the child grows.*

Image of baby with cleft lip

Cleft lip and palate repair allows children to enjoy improved oral function as well as a more normal appearance.

About Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate

Cleft lip and cleft palate (also called orofacial cleft) affect approximately two out of every 1,000 children born. These conditions occur between the sixth and tenth week of a fetus’s development, when the tissues that form the lip and the palate either do not fuse, or fuse only partially. The results can range in severity from a small split in the lip to an opening that extends into the gums and the base of the nose.

A baby may be born with a cleft lip, cleft palate, or both conditions. Certain genetic and environmental factors are believed to increase the risk of this condition, but in many cases, the cause cannot be determined.  

As prior clinical director of the University of Pittsburgh Cleft-Craniofacial Center, Dr. Hurwitz has extensive experience in cleft lip and palate repair.


Children born with cleft lip and cleft palate face a number of difficulties:

  • Problems with feeding
  • Heightened risk of ear infections that may lead to hearing loss
  • Issues with proper tooth development
  • Language delays due to impaired speech
  • Emotional and social difficulties for both parents and children


Cleft lip and palate repair is performed to improve the patient's ability to speak and hear properly, and to allow him or her to feel more comfortable with his or her appearance.*

Most surgeons recommend cleft lip repair by the time the child is three months old, and cleft palate repair between the ages of 12 and 18 months. Dr. Hurwitz will advise you regarding the best timing for your child’s surgery.

Surgery for Cleft Lip

This is the simpler of the two surgeries. After the patient is sedated, Dr. Hurwitz will make incisions on either side of the cleft to create tissue flaps, which he will suture together to close the cleft. He will skillfully ensure that the incisions follow the normal contours of the upper lip, to improve blending of the scar as it fades over time. A second operation is sometimes required.

Surgery for Cleft Palate

As cleft palate surgery is more complex, it should be performed when the child is a bit older and can better tolerate it.

With the patient sedated, Dr. Hurwitz will make incisions on either side of the cleft and use special flap techniques to reposition tissues to close the gap. Sutures will be placed as close as possible to the middle of the roof of the mouth. Parents should expect that their child will need additional surgeries to repair the palate as the child grows.

What to Expect after Surgery

After both surgeries, it is normal for the patient to experience some swelling, bruising, and bleeding around the sutures. Dr. Hurwitz can prescribe medication to help alleviate discomfort. During your initial consultation, Dr. Hurwitz will explain recovery in detail and answer any questions you may have. 

Your child can enjoy a number of important benefits after undergoing the procedure, including enhanced self-esteem, as well as easier speaking, breathing, and eating.*

Contact Us

With his extensive training in cleft lip and palate repair, Dr. Hurwitz can help your child enjoy normal oral function and a brand-new smile. To learn more, please contact The Hurwitz Center for Plastic Surgery today.*

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I honestly never thought of myself as a serious candidate for elective surgery ... but I’m already feeling and looking so much better.* Jill's Story

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Pittsburgh (Main) Office

3109 Forbes Ave
Ste 500
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

More Info Directions (412) 802-6100

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Pittsburgh (Main) Office

3109 Forbes Ave
Ste 500
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

More Info Directions (412) 802-6100