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Definition of «Cleft palate»

Cleft palate: An opening in the roof of the mouth (the palate) due to a failure of the palatal shelves to come fully together from either side of the mouth and fuse, as they normally should, during embryonic development.

The opening in the palate permits communication between the nasal passages and the mouth. Surgery is needed to close the palate.

Cleft palate is a common physical birth defects, although not as common as cleft lip. About 1 baby in 2,000 is born with cleft palate versus 1 baby in 1,000 with cleft lip.

In dysmorphology (the study of birth defects) and medical genetics, a distinction is made between "cleft lip +/- (plus or minus) cleft palate" and "cleft palate only." They are separate entities. In "cleft lip +/- (plus or minus) cleft palate," the cleft in the lip causes the cleft in the palate. In "cleft palate only," the cleft in the palate arises through another mechanism. It is not induced by the cleft lip.

Cleft palate can be isolated or be part of a syndrome. By isolated is meant that the child is otherwise normal. Cleft palate is a part of many syndromes, for example, the popliteal pterygium syndrome, an autosomal (non-sex-linked) dominant disorder in which there is webbing behind the knees (pterygium means a wing) together with cleft palate and pits in the lower lip.

If normal parents have an otherwise normal child with a cleft lip and palate, there is an increased risk of 4-5% for each of their other children to be affected. If an otherwise normal child has cleft palate only, the risk for the next child to have it, too, is 2-6%.

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