There is a dramatic increase in the number of teenagers requesting cosmetic surgery over the last decade. According to the estimates released by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons or ASPS, roughly more than 333,000 American patients belonging to the age range of 18 years old or younger had cosmetic procedures in order to improve their physical appearance. Comparatively, in 1996, only 14,000 dared to undergo these procedures. The most common cosmetic procedures in these patients include reshaping of the nose, breast augmentation, chin augmentation, surgery of the ears, liposuction and tummy tuck. Ninety percent of these teenagers who request cosmetic revisions are females.
In contrast to reconstructive surgery that aims to correct an obvious abnormality, cosmetic surgery aims to improve the normal appearance to make a person look much better. Cosmetic procedures are becoming more and more popular, thanks to the television programs that highlight celebrities who had these procedures. As a result, more and more health care professionals are having some difficulties in defining to the patients which procedure is needed and necessary.
The US Food and Drug Administration approved the use of saline breast implants in patients 18 years and older. For silicone implants, women who belong to the age range of 22 and older can receive this kind of implant. However, it is considered legal for surgeons to perform breast enhancement procedures for patients under 18 years of age as long as there is parental consent.
The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery and the American Society of Plastic Surgeons do not know exactly how many teenage patients receive cosmetic procedures each year.
However, they have available estimates for previous years. According to the American Society for Aesthetic and Plastic Surgery, in 2003, approximately 11,300 teenagers had breast augmentation. In 2005, both societies claim to perform 3000 to 4000 breast procedures in teenagers 18 years old and below.
The breast augmentation procedure is usually performed under general anesthesia. The surgeon creates a pocket under the breast tissue and inserts either a saline or a silicone breast implant to attain a fuller, rounder breast appearance. Postoperative discomfort is usually expected to occur a few days after the operation and patients are usually advised to avoid strenuous physical activity and exercise for 4 to 6 weeks after the procedure.
Complications do happen with breast augmentation procedures, and in most cases, they are prosthetic device-associated. The most common breast augmentation complication is capsular contracture, the painful hardening of the scar tissues surrounding the implant. Other complications that can occur with breast augmentation include rupture of the implant, leaking of the implant, postoperative bleeding, decreased nipple sensation, surgical wound scarring, and infection.
Although some surgeons may perform breast surgical procedures in patients below 18 years of age, it is important to note that breast development can continue even after the age of 18. This is the reason why the US Food and Drug Administration approved the use of silicone breast implants only for women who are 22 years old and older. The breast size can also increase with weight gain, which can reduce the perceived dissatisfaction to breast size, thereby also reducing the desire for breast enhancement procedures.
Body image satisfaction begins to develop at an early age. Parental approval and the much-needed parental attention are some of the positive influences that can lead to body appearance satisfaction. On the other hand, parental criticism and even neglect can lead to a negative attitude towards one’s appearance leading to the desire to improve one’s appearance. Other influences that can affect children’s attitude toward their body image include sociocultural influences, which include celebrities, dolls, books, and movies.
During the teenage years, many teenagers have a self-esteem that is primarily dependent to their peer’s perception and feedback, and with plastic surgery, improvement in their self-esteem and self-worth can be observed. In fact, a study even reveals that cosmetic surgery can go beyond physical improvement. It can also improve the psychological well-being of those teenagers with noted physical deformities who receive surgical procedures to improve their physical appearance.
Plastic surgeons are much aware about the probable causes and effects of teen breast augmentation and they know the message behind the recommendation of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons that says teenagers who want cosmetic breast procedures without other indications should wait until they are above 18 years of age. Doctors have to wait until the patient becomes emotionally and physically matured. It is strongly recommended for these teenagers to wait and see before undergoing any cosmetic surgical procedure such as breast augmentation. Furthermore, standardized screening for other psychological problems should be implemented.