Chung and Buchman have seen the effects directly in their work: More than 100 cases of cleft lip and palate repair and related procedures are seen at the U-M each year. The U-M's multidisciplinary program is one of the largest and oldest in the nation.
Besides plastic and reconstructive surgeons Buchman and Chung, the U-M Craniofacial Anomalies Program includes 47 specialists and health professionals, including dentists, neurosurgeons, oral and maxillofacial surgeons, orthodontists, otolaryngologists, speech and language pathologists, social workers, geneticists, nutritionists, and pediatricians. The program was started in 1955 and aims to treat both the physical and psychological needs of each patient. Even with multidisciplinary care, the authors say the condition is not easy to treat.
"Cleft lip and palate definitely change a child's quality of life for the worse," says Chung. "Even though we can fix the external appearance, and we can also fix some of the internal deformities, their speech will always be quite different. They'll require as many as 10 to 20 surgeries throughout their life and the scar will always be there in the face."
The researchers embarked on the study in an attempt to provide more definitive information about a suspected possible connection between smoking and cleft lip and palate. Prior research elsewhere on smaller samples of newborns yielded conflicting results.
They gathered their statistics from the 1996 U.S. Natality Database, compiled by the National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The database includes information compiled by physicians and nurses on each baby, as well as answers from new mothers to questions about their education, lifestyle and medical history. The 1996 data
Contact: Kara Gavin
University of Michigan Health System