Plastic surgery and the teenage patient

J Pediatr Adolesc Gynecol. 2000 Aug;13(3):105-18. doi: 10.1016/s1083-3188(00)00042-5.


Over the past year, the media have reported an increase in the number of teenagers undergoing plastic surgery, and with a tone of faint alarm have suggested that this merits some cultural self-scrutiny. This paper presents the statistics on the number and types of plastic surgery operations done in teenagers over the last eight years and discusses these in the context of cultural influences and societal concepts of beauty. The reason to have plastic surgery is psychological and involves body image, which is defined as the subjective perception of the body as it is seen through the mind's eye. To explain why changing the external appearance affects personality and behavior, the complex psychological reactions that occur after an operation that alters the size or shape of a body part are reviewed. Body image development occurs in stages, and puberty stands out as a particularly sensitive time as the teenager undergoes major changes in his or her physical appearance and does this at a time of heightened vulnerability to the opinion of others. Plastic surgery to correct a truly unattractive feature is enormously successful and remarkably free of conflict in this population. Teenagers undergo a rapid reorganization of their self-image after plastic surgery with subsequent positive changes in behavior and interpersonal interactions. The key to achieving success with plastic surgery is patient selection. The core value of the surgery lies not in the objective beauty of the visible result, but in the patient's opinion of and response to the change. Good patient management includes selecting candidates with clear and realistic expectations who are free of psychopathology. There must be true informed consent and attention to psychological issues must continue into the postoperative period. It is the responsibility of the patient's physician and plastic surgeon to recognize a need for psychiatric evaluation and to help the patient get this as needed. The eight operations most commonly done in the teenage population are rhinoplasty, ear surgery, reduction mammoplasty, surgery for asymmetric breasts, excision of gynecomastia, augmentation mammoplasty, chin augmentation, and suction assisted lipoplasty. Each of these is reviewed with regard to techniques, expectations, risks, and logistics. Guidelines for timing the referral of teenage patients for plastic surgery evaluation are given.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior*
  • Adult
  • Body Image*
  • Female
  • Guidelines as Topic
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Patient Selection
  • Surgery, Plastic / psychology
  • Surgery, Plastic / statistics & numerical data*