Paediatric plastic surgery – whim or necessity?

Plastic surgery performed on children? “Whim”, “dangerous fashion”, and “impulse decision” are comments that you are often likely to encounter on this topic. Are such procedures mere whims of the parents and their loved ones, or perhaps truly necessary?

For the sake of beauty or health?

The intervention of a plastic surgeon is usually associated with breast enlargement, liposuction, rhinoplasty, or facelifts, which are all procedures undergone primarily by adults who want to look better. No wonder plastic surgery performed on children or teenagers is so controversial. However, beautification procedures are just a fraction of what this area of surgery has to offer. “We need to distinguish between aesthetic procedures and corrective or reconstructive procedures that are performed for medical reasons.There are many situations in which performing such procedures on a young child or a teenager is necessary because of a congenital defect or an injury, and not because someone wants to look better,” stresses Janusz Obrocki, MD, a plastic surgeon at the Medicover Hospital. “An orofacial cleft, also known as hare-lip, can serve as an example.In this case there are several stages of treatment and other experts apart from the plastic surgeon are involved.Taking the right steps is very important, as this defect causes feeding and breathing difficulties and makes it difficult to learn to speak later on,” he adds.

An “aesthetic” defect is also a problem

It is important to remember that the intervention of a plastic surgeon to change something in the appearance of a child does not necessarily have to just be a whim. Protruding ears or a large visible scar or birthmark can cause unpleasant reactions from the people around you, especially peers. Often the crude jokes made by schoolmates make a child aware that their appearance is “out of the ordinary”. This in turn can have a major effect on self-esteem, cause loss of confidence and faith in someone’s own abilities both in childhood as well as adult life, and even physically affect health. If you find that some aspect of a child’s appearance is problematic for them, don’t disregard it. This is because the support and the right reaction of their loved ones are of fundamental importance to the child.

“He has ears like Dumbo…”

The majority of paediatric plastic surgery is for the correction of protruding ears. This is one of the procedures which is not performed for medical reasons, but that is usually associated with a little one’s complexes. “Protruding ears can be corrected when a child is seven or eight years old. At this age the earlobe is nearly the same size as an adult’s,” says Janusz Obrocki, MD. The procedure takes around an hour to perform and is usually carried out under local anaesthesia. During the procedure the surgeon models the cartilage in such a way that the auricle is closer to the head. The earlobe is reshaped with non-absorbable sutures and the little patient is required to wear an elastic cotton band that offers additional protection against injuries.
It is very important to follow the doctor’s instructions for recovery, but the appropriate preparation of the child for the procedure is equally important. “Parents decide to take their child to a plastic surgeon because they want the best for him or her.They need to remember that a child should not be forced to undergo such surgery. They can only suggest it as an option if they know that the protruding ears or any other “defect” deeply bothers the child or inspires peers to make unpleasant jokes,” sums up Janusz Obrocki.


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