Cleft Lip/Palate & Craniofacial Surgery

Fellowship Overview

  Application Requirements

The word craniofacial is derived from the word cranio, referring to the skull or cranium, and facial, referring to the face. Anomaly is a medical term meaning "irregularity" or "different from normal." Craniofacial anomalies (CFA) are a group of deformities involving the growth of the head and facial bones. These anomalies are congenital (present at birth) and vary in type and severity.

Experts agree that many factors contribute to the development of craniofacial anomalies. Some craniofacial anomalies are a result of genetic mutations (multiple genes are inherited from both parents). Other craniofacial anomalies may be a result of environmental factors, which scientists do not completely understand. Some of these factors include the possibility of a combination of genes wherein a child may receive a particular combination of gene(s) from one or both parents, or there may be a change in the genes at the time of conception, which results in a craniofacial anomaly. In addition, environmental factors may contribute to the development of a craniofacial anomaly, although there is no data that shows a direct correlation between any specific drug or chemical exposure as a causative agent.

The most common types of craniofacial anomalies encountered include cleft lip and/or cleft palate, facial clefting, nonsyndromic and syndromic craniosynostosis, craniofacial syndromes (e.g., hemifacial microsomia, Pierre Robin, Treacher Collins, Aperts), vascular tumors and/or malformations, positional plagiocephaly, torticollis, and velopharyngeal insufficiency.

Over the past several years, craniofacial surgeons have developed new surgical techniques and interventions for the care of the child with a craniofacial anomaly. Children with craniofacial anomalies often have multiple problems that require the expertise of a multidisciplinary team. The multidisciplinary team provides for the medical, physical, and psychosocial needs of the child and the family. In addition, patients with craniofacial anomalies should be cared for in an institution with a dedicated pediatric cleft/craniofacial team available to provide the most comprehensive care for the patient’s delicate needs.