The trend of surgeons being asked to perform cosmetic surgery procedures on children* in Australia appears to be on the rise. It is important for parents to understand that there is difference in the terms 'cosmetic surgery' and 'reconstructive surgery.' (*For the purpose of this discussion, 'children' are defined as persons under the age of 18 years old).
Cosmetic surgery is surgery performed solely for the purpose of improving one's appearance for non-medical reasons. Reconstructive surgery is performed to restore proper function to an area of the body that has been damaged or disfigured due to injury/accident or improper development as in the case of a cleft palate.
It is critical that parents fully understand, and address, both the reasons why children seek cosmetic surgery and the ensuing ethical and legal issues surrounding performing cosmetic surgery on children in Australia.
Cosmetic Rhinoplasty in Children – Dr Ha’s personal perspectives:
I regularly see patients under the age of 18 with regards to changing the appearance of their nose. This can sometimes be part of a breathing or other functional problem or for purely cosmetic reasons.
When performed for the right reasons, having a successful cosmetic rhinoplasty can have profound positive benefits to the childs or young adults confidence and mental state.
It is important to bear in mind that the facial skeleton continues to change and mature throughout adolescence. The age in which facial growth ceases can vary between 16 until the early 20s. Ideally, cosmetic rhinoplasty should be delayed until the surgeon is confident that facial growth has ceased. Operating before this time may affect nasal skeletal maturation, or the nose may continue to change following surgery; leading to an undesirable result.
There are however a few exceptions when considering Rhinoplasty in a child/ young teenager. If a significant nasal bony or cartilage deformity is identified early, correcting this may then allow for normal nasal growth. If surgery is postponed until the child is older, it may result in a greater cosmetic deformity, make surgery much more difficult and you may never be able to achieve an acceptable result.