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Speech Surgery

Why does my child need speech surgery?

Speech surgery may be recommended if your child has too much air leaking out of the nose when speaking. This most commonly happens to children born with a cleft palate although it can occur for other reasons too.

What will happen during surgery?

The goal of the surgery is to narrow the space between the back of the nose and mouth. This helps your child control the air flow during speech and prevent air from leaking out of the nose when it shouldn’t. A few procedures available to address this problem include making the soft palate (back of the roof of the mouth) longer or moving tissue onto the back wall of the throat. Your surgeon will discuss which option is best for your child.

This procedure is performed in a hospital operating room and requires general anesthesia. This means your child will be fully asleep and carefully monitored during surgery. You will have a chance to talk with the anesthesiologist on the day of surgery to discuss any questions you may have about the safety and risks of anesthesia.

What do I need to do before surgery?

Your child must have a physical examination by his or her pediatrician or family doctor within 30 days before surgery. The doctor you see will complete the History and Physical form provided by our office. Bring the completed form with you the day of surgery. For your child's safety, it is very important that he or she have an empty stomach when anesthesia is given. Please follow Children’s Hospitals’ Eating and Drinking Guidelines. If the guidelines are not followed, your child's surgery will be cancelled.

What can I expect after surgery?

The surgery usually takes between 1 and 2 hours. After the surgery is over, your child will spend 30 to 60 minutes in the recovery room before going with you to a hospital room to finish recovering. Most children will spend 1 or 2 nights in the hospital after speech surgery. Your child can go home when pain is well controlled with oral (by mouth) medicines and swallowing liquids is not too difficult.

Your child will likely have a sore throat for several days after surgery. Your surgical team will discuss the best ways to manage pain when your child is at home. Typically pain is controlled with Tylenol® (acetaminophen) or Children's Motrin® (ibuprofen). Some children will receive a mild narcotic medication to help with moderate to severe pain. 

Your child should only eat a very soft or puree diet for 2 weeks after surgery. All foods should be no thicker than pudding, applesauce, or yogurt.

Your child may snore quite loudly for a few weeks after surgery. This usually improves within the first month. It may help to sleep propped up on several pillows or in a chair.

Activity should be limited to quiet play for the first 7 days after surgery. Your child should also stay home from school or daycare for a week. Your child should wait at least 4 weeks before resuming speech therapy.

A low grade fever (99° to 100°F) for a day or two after surgery is common.

When should I call my child’s surgeon?

  • Any bleeding from the mouth
  • Oral temperature higher than 102 F that does not come down with Tylenol or Ibuprofen
  • Unable to eat and drink
  • Not urinating (peeing) for more than 8-12 hours

What else do I need to know?

Financial aid may be available through Services for Children with Handicaps or TEFRA. For more information, contact the hospital social worker or your local county social worker. Other resources include:

  • American Cleft Palate Foundation 1829 E. Franklin St. Suite 102 Chapel Hill, NC 27514-2820 1-800-24-CLEFT
  • Cleft and Craniofacial Clinic Children's Hospitals and Clinics 2525 Chicago Avenue South Minneapolis, MN 55404 612-813-6888


The information provided in this brochure is not specific to your child. This information is provided as a service to our patients. The information is for educational and informational purposes only and should NOT be used as a substitute for the advice of your child’s physician.

If you have any questions, please call Children’s ENT and Facial Plastic Surgery Clinic.

Reviewed 10/2022

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This page is not specific to your child, but provides general information on the topic above. If you have any questions, please call your clinic. For more reading material about this and other health topics, please call or visit Children's Minnesota Family Resource Center library, or visit

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