A cleft lip or palate, an abnormal head shape or an undeveloped ear. The effect of such visible disfigurements can devastate a child’s development and self-esteem, especially when the deformity is on the face.
Children’s Hospital Central California Pediatric Plastic Surgery Department specializes in the surgical correction and management of congenital and acquired conditions, including helping neonates, children and teenagers with complex craniofacial, hand and vascular anomalies. With three full-time board certified pediatric plastic surgeons performing more than 1,000 plastic surgeries a year, the full-service program is one of the busiest in the country and offers treatment not available elsewhere in the Central Valley. But Children’s wants to do more.
Dr. Peter Witt, medical director of Children’s Pediatric Plastic Surgery Department, announced that craniofacial surgeon, Dr. Angela Rodriguez, is becoming the director of the department’s craniofacial anomalies clinic. Known for its expertise in the management of cleft lip and palate repair, the clinic is the only approved Cleft Palate Team by the American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association (ACPA) in the region. The clinic recently obtained this certification from ACPA and is focusing its efforts on expanding this area.
As Dr. Rodriguez further develops the multidisciplinary program that Dr. Witt reorganized after joining Children’s in 2002, Dr. Witt will focus more attention on caring for pediatric patients with upper extremity conditions, a service that is sorely lacking across the state.
“Dr. Rodriguez, like our other plastic surgeon onboard, Dr. Mimi Chao, is extremely talented,” said Dr. Witt, who is triple boarded in plastic, hand and general surgery. “Dr. Rodriguez has the experience and drive to take the craniofacial anomalies clinic to the next level.”
Multidisciplinary Approach Key to Patient Success
Dr. Rodriguez has a special interest in craniofacial anomalies, cleft lip and palate, distraction osteogenesis and microtia. After earning her medical degree, she completed her internship and residency in surgery as well as a plastic surgery fellowship at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester, Mass. She did a fellowship in craniofacial surgery at Stanford University and spent two years as a research fellow at Harvard University.
One aspect that she loves about her work is collaborating with other pediatric specialists to achieve the best results possible for the patient. “We team up with pediatricians, geneticists, orthodontists, dentists, neurosurgeons, speech pathologists, social workers, ophthalmologists, orthopaedic surgeons, rehabilitation, nurse practitioners and more,” said Dr. Rodriguez, who came to Children’s in 2004. “It’s a large part of our success.”
Children’s plastic surgery department maximizes this multidisciplinary approach by holding a craniofacial clinic once a week for the most complex cases with different specialists present. “It’s a long day but the patient can see all the specialists at one time without having eight different appointments all over the place,” said Dr. Rodriguez, whose goal is to increase access to care and efficiency in this clinic that already sees more than 430 complicated cases a year.
Dr. Rodriguez would also like to develop a broader team for patients the department treats utilizing distraction osteogenesis, a state-of-the-art surgical procedure to correct jaw deformities. “The cleft and craniofacial population often has problems that can be better addressed by this technique,” said Dr. Rodriguez.
Pediatric Plastic Surgery Department Offers Wide Range of Care
Children’s Pediatric Plastic Surgery Department’s care ranges from providing laser therapy for vascular anomalies and working with Children’s trauma services, to reconstructing congenital anomalies. “Children’s exceptionally trained surgeons are fully dedicated to pediatric plastic surgery and craniofacial surgery,” said Dr. Rodriguez. “We can take care of most everything that comes to us.”
Part of this wide range of care includes increasing treatment for children with complex hand, wrist, elbow and shoulder abnormalities, a service that Children’s has offered for years. “Nobody is taking this multidisciplinary approach to children with upper extremity disorders, not in California,” said Dr. Witt. “There’s a huge void.” Referring to one of his young patients in a wheelchair who recently gained better function of his thumb after undergoing a surgical procedure, Dr. Witt said, “This made a huge difference in his life. As it has been said, when you don’t have much, a little is a lot.”
Services Offered and Conditions Treated
- Cleft lip
- Cleft palate
- Jaw disorders
- Fractures and other facial injuries
- Stickler syndrome
- Pierre Robin sequence
- Velocardiofacial syndrome
- Facial deformity
- Abnormal head shape (synostosis)
- Orthognathic maxillofacial reconstruction
- Complex reconstructive problems
- Oral lesions
- Congenital anomalies
- Extra fingers or thumbs
- Fused fingers
- Hand and carpal bone injuries
- Hypoplastic upper extremities
- Vascular malformations
- Breast reconstruction
- Chest, abdominal wall reconstruction
- Complex wounds