Tips and Trends in Teen Elective Plastic Surgery
MIAMI BEACH – Adolescents who undergo elective plastic surgery tend to “sail through surgery more easily” than adults, according to an expert.
In addition, more male teenagers seek these procedures, meaning the gender disparity is not as striking as it is among adults.
Dr. Mary H. McGrath
“When we do cosmetic surgery in teenagers, it is remarkably conflict free, compared with other medical interventions in teenagers, and compared with other age groups,” Dr. Mary H. McGrath said. The reasons are not entirely clear – most research in adolescents addresses rhinoplasty only – but it could be because surgery comes during a time of great overall change for teenagers, she said.
Of the estimated 9.2 million surgical and nonsurgical cosmetic procedures in the United States in 2011, 18% were surgical and accounted for 63% of expenditures, according to data from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. Patients 18 years and younger comprised 1.4% of this total and underwent 97,214 nonsurgical and 34,663 surgical procedures.
Otoplasty was the most common 2011 elective surgical procedure in patients under the age of 18 years in 2011. About one third, 34%, of the estimated 11,000 otoplasties were performed on males. Rhinoplasty came in second on the list, with 20% of the 9,500 procedures performed in males. Breast augmentation, liposuction, and breast reduction (for cosmetic reasons) were the next most common, in order, followed by correction of gynecomastia (not surprisingly, 100% in males).
In contrast, in adult patients, more than 90% of all elective plastic surgeries are performed in women, Dr. McGrath said.
Assessment of physical and mental health is the first step when an adolescent asks about plastic surgery in the primary care setting, Dr. McGrath said at the annual meeting of the North American Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology.
Ensure the adolescent has the necessary emotional and physical maturity. “Determine that the patient has reached the growth milestone and physical maturity for that surgery. We wouldn’t do breast augmentation on a 16-year-old,” for example, said Dr. McGrath, professor of surgery in the division of plastic and reconstructive surgery at the University of California, San Francisco. Also rule out any psychiatric contraindication, such as body dysmorphic disorder, she said.
Speak with the patient alone. Also talk with them with their family present to assess the degree of support. Ask the patient to articulate why they want the surgery. Ensure patient expectations are realistic. After referral, a plastic surgeon ideally will assess the specific deficit, outline what can be accomplished surgically, and describe the potential risks. Efficacy and safety considerations are critical, Dr. McGrath said.
Ask teenagers to explain how they would handle a complication. Dr. McGrath also asks them to repeat back important aspects of the discussion to ensure they understand.
Dr. McGrath shared some tips and insight on the following
• Otoplasty. The ear achieves 85% of full growth by age 3 years, which is “why kids’ ears look so big.” Sometimes, the goal of
surgery is to approximate symmetry. A good plastic surgeon will be familiar with the subtle anatomic features of the ear: the top of the ear is generally closer to the head than the middle, while the lobule at the bottom should stick out the most.