The muscles in the palate are small and a microscope allows these muscles to be seen and repaired much more accurately. This was a totally new concept at the time and no one was using it in palate repair until Mr Sommerlad published his technique in a journal in 2003. The majority of UK surgeons now use a microscope in surgery but a relatively small number use it elsewhere in the world.

 The main benefits of using an operating microscope are:

  • Variable magnification – it is possible to see a level of detail that cannot be seen with a naked eye. A magnification of between 3 to 8 times is normally used but it can be changed throughout the operation to suit.
  • Training - another positive from using a microscope is that it means other people can see what is going on for training purposes. The assistant surgeon cannot see much of what is being done unless he or she is looking through the side arm of the microscope, in which case he/she will see virtually the same as what the surgeon can see. It is also possible to take a recording of the surgery which again, is useful for training purposes.
  • Comfortable position - the surgeons who use it say it is more comfortable – some have experienced serious neck problems when not using the microscope.
  • Light in operative field – the microscope has a directional light. Previously, a head light and magnifying loupes were required.


This is another example of finding new, kinder and more effective investigations, treatments and surgery.