Cleft Lip

The anti seizure medication Topamax®, which is used to treat epilepsy, is the subject of an FDA warning regarding its role in the development of cleft lip in infants that are exposed to the drug during the first few weeks of development.

What is a Cleft Lip?

Cleft lip is facial and oral malformation that develops very early during fetal development. It is an actual split in the sides of the upper the lip. Cleft lip occurs when the structures that usually come together and fuse to form the lips leave a gap. This gap, called a cleft, can range from a small notch in the upper lip only, or can extend to the nose and gums.

A unilateral cleft affects one side of the upper lip, while a bilateral affects both sides. Cleft lips are often accompanied by a cleft palate, which is a gap in the roof of the mouth.

Cleft Lip Overview

One in every 700 babies is born with a cleft lip each year. It is the fourth most common type of birth defect in babies born in the U.S. According to studies, cleft lip is most common in children that are of Asian, Native American or Latino decent.

In many cases, doctors are unsure of the exact cause of cleft lip or palate. Some factors that have been linked to the development of cleft lip include genetics and environmental factors such as medication taken by pregnant mothers. Drugs that have been identified as contributors to the defect include certain anti-seizure medications, acne medications and cancer medications.

Health Problems

There are several health problems that are associated with cleft lip, including:

  • Difficulty eating
  • Ear infections, loss of hearing
  • Speech problems
  • Dental problems

Diagnosis and Treatment

Cleft lip is an obvious abnormality and is very easy to diagnose. Sometimes, cleft lips can be diagnosed before the baby is born in an ultrasound. A team of doctors will usually be involved in treatment, due to the various problems associated with cleft lip. Because each patient is different and the complication will vary, a team of doctors will work together to figure out the specific need of the patient.

Treatment for cleft lip might include one to two surgeries depending on the severity of the separation. Initial surgery will usually happen when the baby is less than 3 months old. Early treatment has the best results; doctors usually want to treat a baby before he/she starts speaking. When patients have cleft palate and cleft lip, multiple surgeries may be required over the course of 18 years.

Surgery to improve the appearance might be considered later when the structure of face is more developed. Normal appearance, speech and eating will be achieved in most patients.

Resources for Parents

If your baby is born with cleft lip and/or palate and you were given Topamax® during your pregnancy, there are resources available. Contact a Topamax® cleft lip lawyer for help. Even though cleft lip is not life threatening, treatment can be a long and emotional journey for you and your child. We can help you seek compensation to ensure your baby receives the best in care.

Contact us for a free evaluation of your case.