14-day-old baby undergoes pioneering procedure to fix cleft lip at CHLA

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When Stephanie Santana was five months pregnant with Sebastian, she learned that her baby boy would be born with a cleft lip and palate.

On Monday morning, the 14-day-old boy successfully underwent surgery to correct the condition, thanks to a pioneering procedure only available at the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles.

Typically babies with the congenital abnormality have to wait up to six months, and the result of a later-term surgery typically leaves more scarring, according to doctors at CHLA.

Dr. Jeffrey Hammoudeh, a plastic and maxillofacial at CHLA, pioneered the neonatal cleft lip surgery performed on baby Sebastian — a procedure that isn’t happening anywhere else in the country.

“Sebastian had a cleft lip and nasal deformity, one of the most common congenital anomalies,” Hammoudeh said. “The muscle around the mouth failed to develop correctly, so there is a hole in the mouth and in the nose.”

After Hammoudeh and his team at CHLA repaired Sebastian’s condition, he said, “that ability to repair it at such an early age capitalizes on the estrogens the baby has, and it capitalizes on the baby’s ability to heal much better at a younger age.”

Stephanie Santana said she is so relieved and was grateful for Hammoudeh and his team of doctors at CHLA.

“I’m so happy he’s going to be able to have all the normal things that we can do. It was so hard for him to do something as simple as latch onto a bottle,” Santana said. “I’m just so thankful right now.”

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