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Plastic Surgery for Kids

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If you’ve read a few of my articles, you may know that I often caution people about one aspect of plastic surgery or another. I’m especially concerned that people decide to move forward with a procedure for all the right reasons—so why on earth would I advocate plastic surgery for kids?

In my experience there is a procedure that can really make a positive difference for a percentage of children: otoplasty. That’s the medical term for the procedure that “pins back” overly prominent ears.

We all know how cruel children can be to each other, especially when it comes to physical appearance. If your son or daughter is overweight, has a disability or an unusual physical feature, you may see firsthand the pain unfortunate comments can cause. Many children with protruding ears are regularly called “Dumbo,” “monkey” or worse. When a sensitive child is frequently taunted, the effects can be long-lasting.

You can consider cosmetic surgery for your child when his or her ears are finished developing—as early as the age of 5. You’ll want to make sure your child understands the procedure and is ready to undergo the anesthesia and recovery process. Another possible plus on the side of acting early is that your insurance may cover the procedure.

On the other hand, you shouldn't push your child to have surgery. If they are not overly bothered by occasional comments and don’t express frustration themselves, they may not be ready to undergo otoplasty. Furthermore, you don’t want your son or daughter to intuit that you believe there’s something wrong with them.

If you are thinking about the procedure for your child, or for yourself, for that matter, you should know it is relatively simple. Your surgeon will reposition the ears closer to the head by removing excess cartilage, placing permanent stitches under the skin or both. Recovery involves wearing bandages for several days and a headband during sleep for a while. Most people experience no problems after the procedure, though normal risks related to anesthesia, infection and so on do apply.

Add a Comment5 Comments

Yes! Everyone is beautiful, just as they are! I am the last one to advocate plastic surgery for anyone, let alone kids, except when a long list of conditions are met. And I would never say anyone "should" change their bodies--that's just silly.

I do believe, though, that there's a small percentage of children, including some who are very young, who could benefit from otoplasty. Ears tend to develop fully quite early in life (unlike noses and breasts), children can be very cruel to their peers, some kids may be sensitive enough to really want the procedure and mature enough to handle it...

I agree, it's probably better to wait longer in most cases. Or grow more comfortable with your looks as you mature and forget the whole thing. After all, a kid with sticking out ears can even be elected President!

But there's an excellent plastic surgeon I know who occasionally performs otoplasty on young kids. I've seen a set of before and after photos of a very young, adorable little boy on this surgeon's web site. In the first photo the kid is looking straight into the camera with a slightly grim, rather sad look on his face. His ears angle out widely from his head. In the after photo, his ears hug his head and look unremarkable, and the boy sports a huge grin. A relatively simple procedure seems like a small price to pay for that smile.

March 22, 2009 - 4:26pm
HERWriter Guide

Plastic surgery on a 5 year old (I have a 5 year old) is out of the question for me, but I would support my kids having this kind of procedure as adults, if it made them feel better. A five year does not have the intellectual capacity to make such a decision and cannot understand the possible consequences of anesthesia. Knowing my 5 year old as I do, he'd agree to it in order to please me (since the adult would really be the one promoting it, it's not like a Kindergarter suggests a corrective procedure on his own accord), which is kind of heartbreaking and enforces my gut feeling to never do it.

Anesthesia is frightening enough and risky enough - so I would only put my child through it when medically necessary.

I understand kids can be cruel. They can find a toenail on someone that they don't like and ridicule them for it. I don't think there is a name, a face or a body part that kids can't find a nickname for or an insult!

But every child and parent is different! I'm sure many find this kind of surgery appropriate - they just need to understand both the physical and emotional risks of plastic surgery on a child. If it is successful, the child may really feel better about herself. I know several people who had plastic surgery (usually the nose) because they always hated their noses growing up, but they all waited until adulthood. And in the unlikely case that something goes wrong in surgery...it's hard to even fathom. I can't imagine. Between Usher's wife having a heart attack recently, as well as the death of Kanye West's mom, writer Olivia Goldsmith ("The First Wives Club") and others, it makes me a bit nervous. Surgery, no matter how small - is considered by the body to be a trauma.

Now, what we do as adults is a whole other story. We have the choice, the information and the ability to understand consequences! But for my kids - no way.

Anyway, it's all moot- my kids don't need plastic surgery because each and every one is the most beautiful little human ever created! ;)

March 21, 2009 - 5:13pm
EmpowHER Guest

This is absolutely ridiculous. You're telling me children should get SURGERY if they have PROMINENT EARS?? So, if my child has a big nose and people tease him/her about it -- rhinoplasty? If he/she is naturally chubbier than other children -- liposuction? If my daughter complains that other children tease her because she has small breasts -- implants?? What about if people tease my child for having a low-pitched voice or a slightly odd-looking toe or a small penis or wearing glasses or being black or chinese or tall or short? No matter what it is, I should be teaching my children better values than just "let's go to the doctor, baby & he'll make you less ugly!" What horrible advice!!!!


March 21, 2009 - 12:15pm

Thanks for the comment, Ron. There are so many things to investigate before taking a big step like committing to plastic surgery--physician education and training, board certification and professional memberships, hospital privileges and so on and so on. It's challenging to address what's important and keep articles short at the same time!

You make a good point about accreditation of the facility. I know about AAAASF and JACHO, but I hadn't heard about AAAHC. I'll look into it.

March 21, 2009 - 9:58am
EmpowHER Guest


You make an excellent point regarding surgery for children. Another suggestion that can help protect the safety of any surgical patient is ensuring that the facility is accredited. Both hospitals and outpatient centers are good choices, with my bias being an outpatient facility that is able to cater to the needs of the child, as well as being flexible enough to handle special requests by parents. Three popular accrediting bodies certify ambulatory surgical facilities: JACHO (familiar to us from the hospitals), AAAHC, and AAAASF.

Additionally, ensure that the anesthesia is provided by a board certified anesthesiologist or board certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA).

I am happy to hear that you suggest the parent have a discussion about anesthesia with the child. There is an excellent coloring book called "Sweet Dreams at the Hospital". It is a coloring and activity book for children about to undergo anesthesia and surgery by Marjorie Stamler Bergemann, CRNA and illustrated by Karen Monckton.

It is available here: http://www.aana.com/Resources.aspx?ucNavMenu_TSMenuTargetID=159&ucNavMenu_TSMenuTargetType=4&ucNavMenu_TSMenuID=6&id=206

Ron Seligman, CRNA, MS
Annapolis, MD
Dad of Bekah, 4 & Abbi, 7

March 21, 2009 - 4:12am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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