Pediatric plastic surgery can sometimes be confusing to grasp. After all, plastic surgery is not something that is usually connected with children. Also, the media portrayal of plastic surgery does not depict the full spectrum of the specialty. Most often it is portrayed as “cosmetic services” reserved for the rich and superficial.
More times than I can count, I have been asked, “Why do children need plastic surgery?” Very often, the need for plastic surgery can come about as the result of birth differences such as clefts, abnormal head shapes, skin disorders, or malformation of the hands, feet, trunk or rest of the body. At other times, the need may come as a result of accidents or other traumas.
When a family is faced with the decision of plastic surgery for their child, it’s important to be armed with the most in-depth information. You see, children are not always able to say what is bothering them. They cannot always answer medical questions and they are not always able to cooperate during a medical examination due to anxiety, excitement, fear, or other reasons. Children require a different skill set, especially when being examined for complex pediatric plastic surgery reconstructions. Like other pediatric specialties, pediatric plastic surgeons work on how to examine and treat children in a way that relaxes and makes them cooperative, while still allowing the surgeon to examine the child in a way that helps guide the diagnosis and treatment. Thus, the role of the pediatric plastic surgeon is a critical one.
Pediatric plastic surgery is unique. The specialty focuses on improving the patient’s health, appearance and function. Plastic surgery can help kids with a variety of health conditions including:
- Congenital or acquired facial differences, including cleft lip and palate, ear and nose deformities, facial paralysis and facial asymmetry
- Congenital or acquired extremity conditions; this includes extra or malformed fingers, brachial plexus injuries and peripheral nerve surgery
- Traumatic injuries: such as lacerations, injuries of the arms and legs, and facial fractures
- Skin conditions: such as moles, masses, keloids, scars, burn reconstruction and birthmarks
- Head shape anomalies, including plagiocephaly and craniosynostosis
- Adolescent breast conditions and body contouring surgery
- Wound management
To treat these conditions in children, pediatric plastic surgeons are well-equipped to care for both the psychological and physical needs of young patients.
It can be a surprise for families when a doctor initially recommends plastic surgery for their child. However, as they learn about the field over time, it comes as a relief when parents discover the innovative technology and evolving techniques in this field. If your child or the child of anyone you know needs plastic surgery, be sure to seek out a specialist in the field; and be confident in knowing that pediatric plastic surgery not only improves a child’s appearance and function, but also his or her psychological well-being and sense of self.