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Cleft & Craniofacial Center: Common Questions

The Cleft & Craniofacial Center at Monroe Carell is an approved American Cleft-Palate Craniofacial Association (ACPA) Program that serves Tennessee and the surrounding region.

Learn More about the Cleft & Craniofacial Program

Who should come to the Cleft & Craniofacial Center?

Any child or teenager with a cleft who is new to Vanderbilt is welcome. We also see children diagnosed in utero or at birth within the first week of life.

What is the clinic visit schedule?

The anticipated visit schedule, depending on the extent of your child's cleft lip or palate:

  • First visit at 5 to 6 years of age prior to entering Kindergarten
  • Every 1 to 2 years from ages 7 to 11 to evaluate for bone grafting
  • During high school in preparation for jaw and nose surgery

What happens at Cleft appointments?

A multi-disciplinary team of specialists will evaluate your child’s needs in a clinic setting. Our Program Coordinator will contact you after your first visit with our team’s recommendations and a follow-up schedule. The coordinator will serve as your point of contact throughout your child’s healthcare process.

What other resources do you provide?

Our Family Resource Center is another unique way you can learn about your child's condition, tour the wards and ICU, obtain financial assistance and connect with other families dealing with the same medical issues.

What specialists will see my child, and why?

Your child may be scheduled with several or all of these individuals depending on their specific needs:

Pediatric Otolaryngologist/Plastic Surgeon

These specialists are responsible for the surgical closure of the cleft and related operations your child may require. They will also closely monitor and treat any ear disease, speech disorder or hearing loss.

Physician Assistant/Program Coordinator

The PA coordinates the cleft team and is available as a contact person to provide information to you as parents or caregivers about your child’s health needs, treatment plan, home care and follow-up.

Speech Pathologist

The speech pathologist will monitor feeding and speech development, and provide suggestions for stimulating speech.

Registered Dietitian

The nutritionist assists with early nutrition and growth by following your child’s weight closely. This person will also provide nutritional support prior to surgeries requiring modified diets.


Because children with cleft palate have an increased risk of ear problems, ongoing audiological surveillance is necessary. Audiologists provide tests to monitor your child’s hearing and help with diagnosis and treatment for any cleft-related hearing problems.

Dental Specialists

The dental specialists include the pediatric dentist, orthodontist and oral-maxillofacial surgeon. These specialists keep track of your child's dental growth and development and provide information on oral hygiene and dental treatment that may be necessary due to the cleft.


The geneticist is available to discuss how clefts of the lip and palate occur and to answer questions about the risk of recurrence with future pregnancies. Later, this specialist can help your teenager understand the cause of a cleft and advise him or her about individual circumstances.

Neuropsychologist/Social Worker

The neuropsychologist or clinical social worker is available to meet with your family to assist in the psychosocial and emotional aspects of cleft lip/palate. This specialist is aware of services available in the community to which your family can be referred for information on medical coverage, financial assistance and support groups and services.

Cleft & Craniofacial team at Children's Hospital
The Cleft & Craniofacial team at Children's Hospital