The treatment of these disorders needs the involvement of experts from multiple medical and surgical specialties (disciplines). The American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association and the Cleft Palate Foundation agree that management of patients with craniofacial abnormalities is best provided by a multidisciplinary team of specialists.
The optimal time for the first evaluation is within your child's first few weeks of life. The focus of the team visit is to help correct your child's physical problems and to ease adapting to each stage of life. Usually, your child will be seen at frequent intervals as an infant and then on an annual, or semiannual, basis thereafter.
There may be many people involved in the management of craniofacial abnormalities for your child, because the skills of many different areas are needed to help with the problems that can happen. The following are some of the members of the craniofacial team:
Plastic/craniofacial surgeon. A surgeon with specialized training in the diagnosis and treatment of abnormalities of the skull, facial bones, and soft tissue. He or she will work closely with the orthodontists and other specialists to coordinate a surgical plan.
Neurosurgeon. A surgeon who specializes in the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. He or she coordinates all surgical interventions of head abnormalities with the craniofacial surgeons (for example, craniosynostosis).
Pediatrician. A healthcare provider who specialized in the care of children and who will follow your child as he or she grows. The pediatrician helps coordinate the multiple specialists involved.
Orthodontist. A dentist who evaluates the position and alignment of your child's teeth. He or she coordinates a treatment plan with the surgeon and other specialists.
Pediatric dentist. A dentist who specializes in the care of children's teeth.
Speech and language specialist. A professional who will do a comprehensive speech evaluation to assess your child's communicative abilities. He or she who will closely monitor your child throughout all developmental stages.
Otolaryngologist (ear-nose-throat specialist). A healthcare provider who will assist in the evaluation and management of ear infections and hearing loss that may be side effects of your child's cleft abnormality.
Audiologist (hearing specialist). A professional who will assist in the evaluation and management of any hearing difficulties your child may have.
Ophthalmologist. A healthcare provider who specializes in the structures, functionality, and diseases of the eye. An ophthalmologist evaluates and plans treatment of associated eye problems in coordination with other surgical interventions.
Genetic counselor. A professional who reviews the medical and family history, as well as examines your child to help in diagnosis. A genetic counselor also counsels your family regarding risk for craniofacial abnormalities to happen in future pregnancies.
Nurse team coordinator. A registered nurse who combines experience in pediatric nursing with specialization in the care of your child. He or she acts as liaison between your family and the craniofacial team.
Social worker. A professional who provides guidance and counseling for your child and your family in dealing with the social and emotional aspects of a craniofacial abnormality. He or she assists your family with community resources and referrals (for example, support groups).
Psychiatrist. A healthcare provider who assesses the psychosocial function and behavioral development of your child. The psychiatrist will assist the family in identifying therapy resources and coordinates referrals with the social services department.