Clefts are Most Frequent Birth Defect in the United States According to the CDC

Published on: 02/02/2006
Chapel Hill, North Carolina –- Cleft lip and palate now comprise the most common birth defects in the United States, according to a report issued Friday by the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia. The American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association (ACPA) wants you to know that 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. 

“ACPA is the international organization of healthcare professionals who focus on new clinical and research initiatives in cleft lip, cleft palate and other craniofacial anomalies. The 2500 members of ACPA, who represent over 30 health care disciplines, are committed to our mission to optimize interdisciplinary care of individuals affected by these birth defects,” said Mislen Bauer, M.D. a member of ACPA from the Craniofacial Center at Miami Children's Hospital in Miami, Florida. 

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 Dr. Bauer.

“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 that of our Craniofacial Center at Miami Children's Hospital 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,” Dr. Bauer continued. “In fact, multidisciplinary team care is recommended for children with clefts in the “Editorial Note” section of the CDC report!”

In 1991, ACPA established basic parameters for what constitutes a cleft and/or a craniofacial team which have been continuously updated since the original printing. ACPA maintains a formal listing of those teams that have completed a self-assessment form indicating they have met these guidelines. Currently there are over 250 teams included in this listing. “I am proud to report that the Craniofacial Center at Miami Children's Hospital is among them,” said Dr. Bauer.

ACPA was established in 1943 to facilitate communication and cooperation among professionals from all specialties. “The important thing for the public to remember is that our scientific, clinical and research endeavors unite us in our commitment for improved quality of life for those affected by this most prevalent birth defect,” concluded Dr. Bauer. 

For more information, please visit the ACPA website at 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

For Further Information, contact the Craniofacial Center at Miami Children's Hospital - 305-662-8237 
About Miami Children's Hospital
Founded in 1950, Miami Children's Hospital is the only licensed specialty hospital for children in South Florida. Ranked Miami–Dade County’s “Best Pediatric Hospital” by South Florida Parenting Magazine, Miami Children's Hospital offers medical care and services for children from birth to age 21. The 268-bed medical facility has expertise in all aspects of pediatric medicine.

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