Subphenotyping and Classification of Orofacial Clefts: Need for Orofacial Cleft Subphenotyping Calls for Revised Classification

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Nonsyndromic orofacial clefting (OFC) describes a range of phenotypes that represent the most common craniofacial birth defects in humans, with an overall birth prevalence of 1:700 live births. Because of the lifelong negative implications on health and well-being associated with OFC and the numbers of people affected, quality research into its etiology, diagnosis, treatment outcomes, and preventative strategies is essential. A range of different methods is used for recording and classifying OFC subphenotypes, one of which is the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) system. However, there is a general perception that research is being hampered by a lack of sensitivity and specificity in grouping those with OFC into subphenotypes, with potential heterogeneity and confounding in epidemiologic, genetic, and genotype-phenotype correlation studies. This article provides a background to the necessity of OFC research, discusses current controversies within cleft subphenotyping, and provides a brief overview of current OFC classifications as well as their limitations. The LAHSHAL classification is described in the context of a potentially useful tool for OFC that could complement the ICD-10/ICD-11 Beta coding systems to become a simply understood, universally accepted, clinically friendly, and research-sensitive instrument. Empowering registries, clinicians, and researchers to use a common classification system would have significant implications for OFC research across the world at a time when accurate subphenotyping is crucial and health care research is becoming increasingly tailored toward the individual.

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