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Too Young for Plastic Surgery?

By Brian Kobienia, MD, FACS on August 28, 2011


The end of summer is here and everyone is abuzz with the prospect of children returning to school and order and routine returning to the house. While buying school supplies and new school clothes is a midsummer ritual some parents wonder what the can done to minimize the teasing their child will face.

Does plastic surgery have role in the psycology of a growing child? If little Jimmy’s ear don’t stick out as much will he be teased? Is there an age limit for plastic surgery?

Too Young For Surgery

Is someone ever too young for plastic surgery? The short answer is no. Plastic surgeons deal with patients from cradle to grave. Whether its dealing with a newborns cleft lip or palate or a skin cancer in an octogenarian you never know when the services of a plastic surgeon may be needed.

Ethical Surgery

But at what age is it reasonable to do an elective ‘cosmetic’ surgery? Is it ethical to do an ear pinning on a five year old? Are we treating the child or the parents concern for the child? At what age is it reasonable to do breast augmentation surgery? Maybe as a sweet sixteen birthday gift? Or high school graduation present? Do cultural norms affect these decisions?

My Philosophy

My philosophy regarding these issues is that surgery should be done for the patient, not the parent. I think that the patient needs to be an active participant in the decision to undergo surgery and be mature enough to handle the recovery from surgery with it’s incumbent activity limitations and discomfort. Little Jimmy can have his ears fixed when he says he wants his ears fixed, not because it fits Mom’s schedule conveniently. Jimmy will understand what is going to be done and what he can expect afterward. He will know and understand why he can’t go swimming or wrestle with his brothers for a few weeks following surgery. This will make recovery easier for all including Mom and Dad. Secondly, it is import to do surgery when the patient, or at least the operative body part, has completed its growth. By age 8 the human ear typically reaches adult size. A woman’s breast, on the other hand, won’t be mature until late teens at the earliest. If surgery is done at too early an age the variable of growth is still in play. How much volume addition is needed in the breast augmentation patient when she is still growing or how much tissue should be removed in the breast reduction patient when breast growth hasn’t been completed? In my opinion, the need for revisional surgery will be minimized when surgery is undertaken when growth is complete. The timing of cosmetic surgical intervention depends on many factors.

Informed Patient

The happiest patient outcomes invariably are those that are done on patients who are educated about the procedure and well informed about the recovery, and realistic results. The happiest patient is the informed patient.

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