Dateline: ST. LOUIS
Fourteen-month-old Quinn Sliment, is shown in a photo before his cleft palate surgery, left, and after the procedure, right. Quinn is the first child in the world to have his cleft palate repaired using the bone morphogenetic protien procedure. The procedure was performed by plastic surgeon Dr. Michael Carstens. (AP Photo/Tom Gannam)
Quinn Sliment was born with a cleft palate, a defect that caused his lip to merge into his nostril on the right side of his face. But on Tuesday, the 14-month-old was all smiles at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital in St. Louis, showing just a ghost of a scar.
He is the first child in the world to undergo a new type of surgery for his cleft palate and lip repair, the hospital said.
The plastic surgeon who performed the surgery, Dr. Michael Carstens, was born with a cleft lip and palate himself. He used a new technique on the child from Waterloo, Ill., requiring two surgeries, rather than the normal five to seven over several years.
Unlike the traditional surgery, no bone graft was used to repair the gap. And the new technique should allow a child such as Quinn to be done with treatment before beginning kindergarten.
"It's amazing. It's wonderful," Quinn's mother Judee Sliment, 36, said of the surgery results.
Quinn's father, Tom, 34, said the family had expected it would take years for surgery and healing, based on other children's experiences.
The parents were thrilled that most of their son's defect seems repaired. "We almost feel guilty, but not too guilty," Judee Sliment said.
Carstens performed a surgery in November focusing on Quinn's lip and another in March to repair the palate. In the months since, the boy has been able to heal and his growth has helped improve his appearance.
Carstens used a type of genetically engineered protein, called bone morphogenetic protein, that was placed on a collagen sponge and inserted into a gap that Quinn had between his nose and gum line. "It's like putting a keystone in an arch," Carstens said.
Cells migrate to the sponge and grow into new bone.
"Bone doesn't grow itself. It is produced by the soft tissue around it," he explained.
A plastic surgeon in Charlotte, N.C., Dr. David Matthews, said the technique could lead to "improved appearance, improved bone structure, fewer surgeries and better growth" in patients. He also said the surgery will help children regain a normal appearance.
Carstens will be the keynote speaker at upcoming cleft palate medical conferences in Mexico, Brazil and India.
On the Net:
Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital: http://www.cardinalglennon.com
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