Craniofacial Conditions We Treat

We treat a range of conditions in the Cleft-Craniofacial Center and Neonatal Craniofacial Program.

While doctors diagnose some defects before or at birth, others occur later in childhood or need treatment again. Our center is proud to offer an innovative but proven treatment approach for children with these conditions.

Contact the Cleft-Craniofacial Center at UPMC Children's

To make an appointment or learn more about our program, call us at 412-692-8650.

Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate

Both conditions are birth defects, which means they form while the baby is growing in its mother's womb.

During early pregnancy, a baby's lips and roof of the mouth (palate) form. These structures normally grow (or fuse) together around 8 weeks into pregnancy.

When the lip doesn't fuse fully, a cleft lip results. When the palate fails to fuse, a hole stays in the roof of the baby's mouth called cleft palate.

Some children only have one or the other, but some have both.

Doctors often correct these conditions with surgery — within 12 months for cleft lip and between 6 and 18 months for cleft palate. Your child may also need orthodontic and dental work as he or she grows.


Craniosynostosis occurs when an infant’s skull bones fuse together too early.

The condition doesn't give the brain enough room to grow. And pressure inside the skull can change the normal balanced shape of the head and face.

Craniosynostosis can cause other health problems, such as:

  • Trouble with feeding
  • Irritability
  • Seizures
  • Delays in development
  • Blindness

Doctors often treat this condition with surgery.

Our team offers:

  • Minimally invasive options such as endoscopic strip craniectomies with post-op molding helmets or spring cranioplasties.
  • Fully open cranial vault remodeling for more severe skull defects.

22Q Deletion Syndrome (Velocardiofacial or DiGeorge)

Children with this syndrome often have many health issues, including:

  • Cleft palate
  • A jaw that is too small
  • Heart problems
  • Learning problems
  • Hearing loss
  • Speech and language issues
  • Possible velopharyngeal dysfunction (VPD)

Children with this condition may need more surgeries spread over a few years to fix:

  • Cleft palate
  • VPD (hypernasal speech)
  • Ear disease
  • The shape of the jaw

Velopharyngeal Dysfunction (VPD)

VPD occurs when a child can't seal off the mouth from the nose during speech.

The leakage of air into the nose can cause:

  • Problems forming oral speech sounds
  • Hypernasal speech
  • Other speech disorders

Proper diagnosis and treatment of VPD are vital to ensure proper speech therapy services. If speech therapy alone can't help your child's speech problem, he or she may need surgery.

We have a team of trained specialists who can diagnose your child and provide direction for treatment.

Syndromic Conditions

“Syndromic” means the condition relates to a syndrome, such as Apert syndrome.

Many syndromes affect the head and face, each having unique symptoms or traits.

Pierre Robin Sequence (PRS)

This condition occurs when a child is born with a small jaw, called micrognathia. It causes the tongue to fall back into the throat and can block the airway.

Children with PRS are often born with a cleft palate as well. It sometimes occurs in children with other syndromes.

Children with this condition need care from birth into their teens when their bones are mature to achieve ideal results. They also often need neonatal airway procedures.

Our center offers a range of treatments such as:

  • Endoscopic techniques
  • Tongue-lip adhesion
  • Neonatal mandibular distraction

Along with the conditions above, we also treat tumors or lesions that:

  • Block the airways (the nose or throat)
  • Affect a child's hearing

Learn More About Craniofacial Disorders

From UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh:

From other sources: