Understanding Pierre Robin Sequence in Babies

CHOC Children’s is the only hospital in Orange County to offer comprehensive treatment and surgery for mandibular_distractionpatients with a facial condition that can limit breathing in infants.

Pierre Robin Sequence is a birth condition wherein a baby has a small jaw and a small, receding chin. As a result, the tongue tends to be displaced back toward the throat, where it can fall back, block the airway and cause difficulty breathing. Most of these infants will also have a cleft palate. If left untreated, Pierre Robin Sequence can be a fatal condition.

To correct this condition, CHOC plastic surgeons perform an operation within the baby’s first few weeks of life called Mandibular Distraction. This procedure moves the jaw forward and reorients the tongue so it doesn’t block the airway.

Mandibular Distraction is a unique surgery.  This operation can be done on the smallest of the small. Babies can’t breathe well because their tongue is blocking their airway.

Performing this surgery on babies with Pierre Robin Sequence reduces or eliminates the chance the baby will need a tracheostomy, or a hole cut into the windpipe, to breathe.

It’s important for parents to know that the condition can be treated successfully when diagnosed.

Sometimes children are born with this and it’s not recognized or diagnosed. Babies are sent home and parents notice their baby is not breathing well or – even worse – turning blue.

Children who also have a cleft palate are later treated with surgery at the optimal age of 9 to 12 months.

Learn more about CHOC’s craniofacial program.

Related articles: