Surgeons should peruse any journal for plastic surgeons as well as medical journals and press releases for in-depth advice on how to deal properly with teen patients. This is especially the case today, since more teens are having cosmetic procedures than ever before, but their motivations for doing so are often different from the typical adult patient. It’s important for a surgeon to understand teenage patients to better evaluate their emotional and physical maturity before consenting to perform any elective operation.
Teenagers often demonstrate the desire to have plastic surgery because they feel different and socially unaccepted among their peers. Often, bullying can lead to a teen wishing for plastic surgery. The major difference between the motives behind adult and teen plastic surgery is that adults tend to want to stand out from the crowd; teenagers want to fit in and look similar to everyone else. It’s important for any teen requesting surgery to understand this since they may come to appreciate their natural, unique characteristics in their adult years.
Medical journals recommend that it is important for the surgeon to note that the teen is requesting the surgery—not the parent—and that this desire for surgery has stuck over an extended period. In other words, ensure that the idea to have a cosmetic procedure is not just a whim, especially if the patient is under 18.
The ideal teenage patient should be mature enough to tolerate the pain and discomfort that comes with surgery. Erratic teens, those prone to mood swings, those suffering from depression, or those who abuse drugs or alcohol should not have plastic surgery.
The teenager should also have realistic goals. She will understand the limitations of surgery as well as the benefits, and must understand that it doesn’t guarantee life changes outside of the operating room, such as becoming more accepted at school. She should also understand that there are risks involved with surgery and that, although uncommon, there may be a negative outcome.
According to recent studies published in plastic surgery journals, the most common cosmetic procedures performed on teens include rhinoplasty, octoplasty, breast augmentation or breast asymmetry correction, breast reduction in both males and females, and acne scar treatment. If this is the motivation behind a teen’s will to have surgery, it is usually a good one and suggests that health issues, not social acceptance, motivate the teen. It is up to you, the surgeon, to determine if the teenager is a good candidate for surgery, so staying up-to-date on the latest studies surrounding body dysmorphic disorder, teen psychology, and other related concerns are crucial.