Evaluation and integration of disparate classification systems for clefts of the lip

Kathie H. Wang, Carrie L. Heike, Melissa D. Clarkson, Jose L.V. Mejino, James F. Brinkley, Raymond W. Tse, Craig B. Birgfeld, David A. Fitzsimons, Timothy C. Cox

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Orofacial clefting is a common birth defect with wide phenotypic variability. Many systems have been developed to classify cleft patterns to facilitate diagnosis, management, surgical treatment, and research. In this review, we examine the rationale for different existing classification schemes and determine their inter-relationships, as well as strengths and deficiencies for subclassification of clefts of the lip. The various systems differ in how they describe and define attributes of cleft lip (CL) phenotypes. Application and analysis of the CL classifications reveal discrepancies that may result in errors when comparing studies that use different systems. These inconsistencies in terminology, variable levels of subclassification, and ambiguity in some descriptions may confound analyses and impede further research aimed at understanding the genetics and etiology of clefts, development of effective treatment options for patients, as well as cross-institutional comparisons of outcome measures. Identification and reconciliation of discrepancies among existing systems is the first step toward creating a common standard to allow for a more explicit interpretation that will ultimately lead to a better understanding of the causes and manifestations of phenotypic variations in clefting.

Original languageEnglish
Article number00163
JournalFrontiers in Physiology
Volume5 MAY
StatePublished - 2014


  • Classification system
  • Cleft lip
  • Forme fruste
  • Incomplete cleft
  • Ontology
  • Orofacial clefts

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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