Melhem AM, Ramly EP, Al Abyad OS, Chahine EM, Teng S, Vyas RM, Hamdan US
Introduction Clefts of the lip are of the most common congenital craniofacial anomalies. The development and implementation of an enhanced recovery after surgery (ERAS) protocol among patients undergoing cleft lip repair may decrease postoperative complications, accelerate recovery, and result in earlier postoperative discharge. Methods A modified ERAS program was developed and applied through Global Smile Foundation outreach craniofacial programs. The main components of this protocol include: (1) preoperative patient education, (2) nutrition screening, (3) smoking cessation when applicable, (4) use of topical anesthetic adjuncts, (5) facial nerve blocks, (6) postoperative analgesia, (7) preferential use of short-acting narcotics, (8) antibiotic administration, (9) use of elbow restraints, (10) early postoperative oral feeding and hydration, and (11) discharge planning. Results Between April 2019 and March 2020, GSF operated on 126 patients with cleft lip from different age groups and 58.8% of them were less than 1 year of age. Three patients (2.4%) had delayed wound healing and one (0.8%) had postoperative bleeding. There were no cases of mortality, length of hospital stay did not exceed 1 postoperative day, and patients were able to tolerate fluids intake at discharge. Conclusion The implementation of an ERAS protocol among patients undergoing cleft lip repair has shown to be highly effective in minimizing postoperative discomfort while reducing opioids use, decreasing the length of stay in hospital, and leading to early oral feeding resumption. The ERAS principles described carry increased relevance in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and opioid crisis and can be safely applied in resource-constrained settings.