Cleft and Craniofacial Care Is Close to Home
Several thousand babies in the United States are affected by cleft and craniofacial birth defects each year. The most common, cleft lip and cleft palate, happens when the lip and/or roof of the mouth do not form properly in the womb. Left untreated, these patients will develop problems with feeding, speech and facial form/function. Children with cleft lip and palate are also at risk for ear infections, hearing loss, difficulties with language development and dental problems. Other examples of craniofacial abnormalities include craniosynostosis (when the bones of the skull do not form properly and the head is misshapen or too small to allow proper brain development) and microtia (when the ear is smaller than normal or absent entirely).
Many babies are born with a cleft or craniofacial abnormality without a known underlying cause. There are, however, some known risk factors such as family history, maternal smoking and certain medications the mother must take during pregnancy (anti-seizure medications, for example).
A person born with a complex craniofacial facial defect such as a cleft palate may require multiple surgeries throughout childhood and adolescence. Though this can be taxing on the child and family, ongoing medical care services such as speech and physical therapy are here to help the patient continue developing alongside their peers. These children can embrace all aspects of childhood and live full lives, made easier by the help of trained professionals who treat these complex issues.
In 2015, The Hoops Family Children’s Hospital at Cabell Huntington Hospital, a member of Mountain Health Network, began developing a comprehensive Cleft and Craniofacial Clinic. It is one of only a few in the state and region and has continued to grow and gain a reputation for compassionate patient and family-centered care.
The clinic is led by Peter Ray, M.D., a Marshall Health plastic surgeon with more than two decades of experience and surgical specialty training in pediatric cleft and craniofacial disorders. Marshall Health’s two ear, nose & throat (ENT) surgeons, Scott Gibbs, M.D., and Adam Van Horn, M.D., also provide care. Dr. Gibbs has been practicing in the Huntington area since 1999 and completed fellowship training in laryngology to help patients with complex voice and swallowing disorders. Dr. Van Horn joined the team in August 2021 after completing a pediatric ENT fellowship, which focused on treating children with craniofacial disorders, hearing loss and airway problems.
Our fellowship-trained surgeons work with a dedicated and specialized team including Marshall Health pediatrician Jennifer Gerlach, M.D., an experienced nursing staff directed by clinic coordinator Amanda Dunkle, FNP-C, speech language pathologists at Hoops and the Marshall University Speech and Hearing Center, a dentist and orthodontist, child life specialists, social workers and a dietitian. The clinic partners with other pediatric specialists in the region to ensure patients get the most comprehensive care available. By working in a multi-disciplinary fashion, the Cleft and Craniofacial Clinic at Hoops brings the highest level of care to patients in our region and can work to understand and meet their unique needs.
Drs. Peter Ray, Scott Gibbs and Adam Van Horn are Marshall Health physicians and faculty at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine. Additional information about the Cleft and Craniofacial Clinic at The Hoops Family Children’s Hospital is available at www.hoopschildrens.org/PediatricCraniofacialClinic.
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