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Teen Health

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Is Plastic Surgery a Teen Thing?

For some teens, plastic surgery can be a godsend. But it has to be for the right reasons.

Is Your Teen Right for Plastic Surgery? continued...

"Is it the nose one week, the ears the next, and the breast the following week?" he says. "We want to be sure it is a consistent complaint."

Antell says he also likes to determine whether the concern is self-motivated in his teen patients. "If a parent dragged them in, that would send up a lot of red flags for me," he tells WebMD.

"Some parents in this day and age want everything they can have for their child, from a new stereo to a new car and sometimes a new nose. This may not necessarily be appropriate."

More teens may be undergoing cosmetic surgery today because their parents have undergone it, he says. The parent's attitude may be "I had it done and my daughters inherited the nose I didn't want."

Some procedures may be inappropriate for teens. "I think it would be a rare case where you would do liposuction on a teenager because a lot of teens grow out of their baby fat," Antell says. Breast enlargement, unless it is to make sure both breasts are symmetrical, may also be inappropriate.

"You want to make sure the breast is fully developed before performing breast augmentation," he says.

Breast reduction, however, may make dramatic improvements of quality of life if the teen can't play sports. "Very large breasts can be a hindrance to playing sports and maneuvering, and some people may experience neck, back, and shoulder pain as a result. Breast reduction surgery is a very satisfying operation in the appropriate teen patient."

Nose jobs too can make a tremendous difference in the right teen patient.

Teens who make good candidates for nose jobs are those "with noses with lumps, bumps or hooks; too big or too high; or with a poor angle between the nose and upper lip," according to McGrath and Mukerji.

People with minor imperfections are not good candidates, they note.

How to Get the Most Out of Plastic Surgery

According to American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the most rewarding outcomes are expected when the following exist:

  • The teenager initiates the request. While parental support is essential, the teenager's own desire for plastic surgical improvement must be clearly expressed and repeated over a period of time.
  • The teenager has realistic goals. The young person must appreciate both the benefits and limitations of plastic surgery, avoiding unrealistic expectations about life changes that will occur as a result of the procedure.
  • The teenager has sufficient maturity. Symptoms of emotional distress must be reduced to a level that will permit the teenager to tolerate the discomfort and temporary disfigurement of a surgical procedure. Plastic surgery is not recommended for teenagers who are prone to mood swings or erratic behavior, who are abusing drugs and/or alcohol, or who are being treated for clinical depression or other mental illness.

The most important part of having plastic surgery is the surgeon you choose. When choosing a surgeon, make sure he or she is board-certified in plastic surgery and has privileges to operate in a hospital (even though a majority of cosmetic procedures are done in office), Antell says.

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