Salisbury Journal article describing pioneering cleft operation on horse

An unusual first…

Cleft lip and palate operations were an important part of the workload for the Regional Plastic and Oral Surgery Centre at Salisbury. However, Dr James Laing (below) did what is thought to be the world’s first such operation… on a horse in 1967.

Jeanne Yates was Theatre Superintendant at Odstock at the time and recalled that Dr Laing came up to her at the end of a session and asked her to bring her working gear for a little jaunt; she then jumped into his sports car and they whizzed along the country roads out to do a little job.

Jeanne, somewhat mystified, found herself entering a stable at the home of Lord and Lady Russell. Dr Laing then performed the life-saving operation on a nine-week-old Palamino horse named Orodette.

Picture the scene: the hay-strewn operating theatre being lit with a torch. The operation took about an hour and was a success. This paved the way for more operations in horses.


Further information

A cleft lip or palate occurs when the structures that form the upper lip or palate fail to fuse together properly when a baby is developing in the womb. The causes may be genetic or environmental, although it is most often thought to be a combination of these factors. In most cases of cleft lip or palate, there is no recognisable cause.

Read some inspiring stories and portraits from families using the Spires Cleft Lip and Palate Service at

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