What Makes a Pediatric Plastic Surgeon Different from an Adult Plastic Surgeon?

Children should never be treated by an adult plastic surgeon. A pediatric plastic surgeon follows a set of procedures that differ from what an adult plastic surgeon follows. But how are they different? What happens if an adult plastic surgeon treats a child?

It’s wrong to say that children are miniature adults. They should never be treated as such because they do not respond or communicate the way adults do. The anatomy and physiology of children are unique and different from adults, especially if you consider the factors of development and growth. Most of the time, the same treatments and procedures do not apply.

How is a pediatric plastic surgeon different from an adult plastic surgeon?

A pediatric plastic surgeon receives additional certification and training compared to adult plastic surgeons, who only receive standard plastic surgery education and training. Pediatric plastic surgeons have specific knowledge of children’s anatomy, growth cycle, and its effects. They are also skilled when it comes to examining and treating children effectively, with a level of compassion, to gain the children’s participation and cooperation.

Their offices and tools/equipment are specifically decorated, designed, and arranged with children being taken into consideration. The waiting and examination rooms are designed and painted in calming, child-appropriate hues. They are also fitted out with books, toys, and videos. The ambiance is welcoming, comfortable, and most importantly, non-threatening.

What are the procedures of pediatric plastic surgery?

Pediatric plastic surgeons treat kids with congenital physical abnormalities, or in short, those who have suffered traumatic accidents. The procedures are either cosmetic or reconstructive. In children, the distinction isn’t always clear because many congenital deformities can affect both aesthetics and physical functions.

  • Cosmetic Plastic Surgery is usually done to improve a child’s physical appearance and self-esteem. This is usually the request of the patient.
  • Reconstructive plastic surgery is applied to a child’s abnormalities that result from developmental issues, congenital defects, infection, trauma, disease, or tumors. This is usually done for a child to regain his normal motor functions or prevent current/future health problems. Sometimes, it’s for the purpose of taking aesthetics into consideration.
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Cosmetic pediatric plastic surgery

Most of the pediatric plastic surgery procedures are reconstructive, but on certain occasions, a pediatric plastic surgeon may perform cosmetic plastic surgeries. This is only undertaken at the request of the child’s caregivers or parents for aesthetic purposes. This promotes a child’s image and self-esteem. This kind of surgery is important to help a child settle into their environments and be confident as they deal with their peers, with a position of strength and equality.

In the age of social media, HD cameras, selfies, reality TV shows, pediatric cosmetic surgery can be a norm. In fact, the ASPS statistics show an increase of kids (aged 13 to 19) who opt for cosmetic surgery. While plastic surgeons advise waiting until at least they turn 18 before they elect to have cosmetic plastic surgery.

However, cosmetic procedures vary depending on age ranges, and on the patient and their specific situation. It’s always best to have a consultation with an experienced and board-certified plastic surgeon to determine fitness for a cosmetic surgery procedure.

Reconstructive pediatric plastic surgery

In case of a deformity that is caused by congenital defects, tumors, illnesses, or accidental injuries, your child may need to undergo reconstructive plastic surgery. Below is a list of situations where a child will need reconstructive pediatric plastic surgery:

  • Craniofacial – this refers to deformities of the head, skull, face, neck, or jaw
  • Polydactyly/Syndactyly – this refers to fused toes or fingers, or extra digits
  • Positional plagiocephaly – which refers to a flattened area of the skull
  • Craniosynostosis – this refers to the fused fibrous joints in the skull
  • Anotia or microtia – this happens when a child has absent, missing, or misshapen ears
  • Chest problems – this includes abnormal breasts and/or nipples
  • Accidental injuries – which includes the limbs, head, or face
  • Growth of birthmarks and skin – this refers to moles or cysts
  • Wounds, scars, or burns
  • Acne inversa-inflamed or hidradenitis suppurativa and swollen lumps in armpits and groins
  • Hemangiomas and congenital tumors
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What are the common cosmetic procedures for children?

Below is a list of the common cosmetic procedures that children can have:

  • Liposuction
  • Breast augmentation and lifts
  • Tummy tucks
  • Ear surgery (as a result of microtia)
  • Male breast reduction
  • Tummy tucks
  • Rhinoplasty (also known as nose reshaping)

What are the procedures of adult plastic surgery?

Below is a list of adult plastic surgery procedures that adults can have:

  • Facial reconstruction – which includes face and forehead lifts
  • Breast surgery and reconstructions
  • Blepharoplasty – which includes the upper and lower eyelids
  • Body surgery and makeovers
  • Skin reconstruction, laser resurfacing, chemical peel
  • Hair transplant
  • Oral surgery
  • Male plastic surgery
  • Rhinoplasty – this refers to nose reshaping and reconstruction
  • Abdominoplasty – which includes a tummy tuck
  • Liposuction (for fat removal)
  • Ear surgery
  • Craniofacial surgery

Only board-certified plastic surgeons should be allowed to perform these surgeries. They can also perform other procedures, which include the following:

  • IV treatments
  • Wound therapy and care
  • Controlled management of infections
  • Tissue debridement
  • Cauterization
  • Specialized dressings
  • Topical creams
  • Surgical interventions

We can name a lot of plastic surgery procedures that specifically benefit children and adults, but many procedures are common to both. What makes a pediatric plastic surgeon from an adult plastic surgeon is the training and knowledge of the physiology, anatomy. Psychology, and the associated age and growth factors. These determine the right approach, diagnosis, treatments, and after-care when attending to children.

Where can you find a pediatric plastic surgeon?

It’s easy to find pediatric plastic surgeons – they work in children’s hospitals, large community hospitals, and university medical centers. You may also ask your pediatrician to recommend a plastic surgeon who works with children. Your friends and relatives may also know and recommend a pediatric plastic surgeon, but you must meet the plastic surgeon to determine whether or not he or she is fit for the job. You can review his or her specific credentials, to verify if they relate to pediatric training.

Dr. Nicholas Bastidas

Dr. Nicholas Bastidas is a board certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon who specializes in the treatment of pediatric and adult craniofacial and cleft abnormalities.  He is a native New Yorker and is fluent in both English and conversational Spanish.  Dr. Nicholas Bastidas  practices in New York.

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