UVA developing new ways to help people with a cleft lip and palate

UVA Health
UVA Health
Published: Jul. 12, 2023 at 9:27 AM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - About one in every 1,600 babies in the U.S. is born with a cleft lip and palate, according to the CDC.

Cleft lip and palate is when a baby’s mouth does not completely form during pregnancy. It is one of the most common facial birth defects in the United States.

“It puts about one in every 700 newborns at risk for difficulties with feeding, language development, speech production, hearing, and dental health,” Doctor Kazlin Mason, a professor and researcher at the UVA School of Education and Human Development, said.”

Mason works with children experiencing these birth defects.

“There is a quality of life piece to this diagnosis,” she said.

Mason says UVA is looking for improved ways to help these children develop speech and have better surgical outcomes.

“We are doing some exciting work with MRI technology, or magnetic resonance imaging, and we’re developing new ways to analyze speech data and optimize those surgeries for these children,” Mason said.

She says about 25% to 30% of these speech surgeries are failing: “That’s because there are some gaps in how we actually assess speech and pick surgeries for these children,” Mason said.

They’re developing new clinical tools to help.

“So patients aren’t having unnecessary or additional procedures to achieve their desired speech outcome,” Mason said.

UVA is actively looking for parents and children who have cleft palate to recruit for its clinical studies.

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