Disclaimer :: Kirby Plastic Surgery sponsored this post and provided helpful information about ins and outs of pediatric plastic surgery.
Learning that your child needs plastic surgery can prompt a flood of questions about what to expect. While researching the basics on your own can be helpful, it’s never a good idea to fully rely on “Dr. Google,” as Internet searches all too often lead to misinformation and unnecessary confusion.
As a board certified plastic surgeon with special training in pediatric procedures, I’d like to share some facts about pediatric plastic surgery, as well as some helpful guidance for those of you who may be facing choices about plastic surgery for your child.
How Can Plastic Surgery Benefit a Child?
While some procedures are performed primarily for social or emotional benefits, others are necessary for healthy physical development. Procedures typically fall under one of two categories:
1. Correcting congenital defects and deformities
Plastic surgery is often performed to correct birth defects and ensure healthy growth and development. Common examples include:
- Cleft lip and cleft palate repair
- Cranial vault reconstruction (correcting synostosis, the premature closure of skull sutures)
- Ear reconstruction and reshaping of absent or malformed ears
- Reconstruction of congenital breast asymmetry correction
- Correction of prominent ears
2. Repairing damage from trauma, illness, or injury
Reconstructive plastic surgery can help restore form and function following trauma. Common examples include:
- Burn repair and reconstruction
- Facial fracture repair
- Reconstruction following dog and other animal bites
Regardless of the reason for the procedure, a pediatric board certified plastic surgeon will prioritize patient safety and improve your child’s health while working to create a more symmetrical and natural appearance.
Steps to Take if You Are Considering Plastic Surgery for Your Child
Consult with qualified pediatric plastic surgery specialists. The first step to take once plastic surgery is recommended for your child is to meet with a pediatric plastic surgeon who can help you fully understand the risks and benefits of surgery for your child’s individual case. Credentials to look for:
- Certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery
- Membership in the American Association of Pediatric Plastic Surgeons
- Additional fellowship training in pediatric or craniofacial plastic surgery
- Experience performing the procedure your child needs
Depending on the nature of your child’s condition, you may also need to meet with a pediatric neurosurgeon or other specialist. Many plastic and reconstructive surgeons work as a team with other pediatric specialists to coordinate your child’s care and provide more comprehensive treatment.
Consider the best time for your child to have surgery. Procedure timing can be critical for two reasons: First, to ensure a child receives treatment before an injury has long-lasting effects on health or quality of life; second, to avoid a more complicated surgery later in life.
Left untreated, a cleft lip or palate can impair an infant’s ability to breathe and eat normally and can interfere with speech and hearing development. Cleft lip repair is typically recommended before three months of age, while a cleft palate is usually corrected before a child’s first birthday. While cleft repairs can be safely performed later in life, addressing these issues early helps to ensure healthy growth and development. Cranial defects including craniosynostosis are typically treated during infancy or early childhood, depending on the nature and severity of the condition.
Ear molding procedures should be performed within the first six weeks of an infant’s life for best results. Ear pinning to correct prominent ears is performed later, when the child is larger — around six years of age to ensure optimal results.
Ultimately, there are numerous considerations as far as timing is concerned with pediatric plastic surgery. It is best to see a pediatric plastic surgeon as soon as a problem is identified so you and your surgeon can develop the best course of action.
Prepare your child for the upcoming surgery. When preparing a child for surgery, honesty is usually the best policy. In age-appropriate terms, explain to your child what the doctor is going to fix and try to help him or her understand how he or she will look and feel after the operation. Focus on positive outcomes while providing your child with enough information to keep him or her feeling safe and secure.
Get the support you need. Placing your child in even the most trusted surgeon’s hands can be scary. In my experience, families who actively seek support from the medical community report a more positive and reassuring experience. Don’t hesitate to ask your pediatrician about patient support programs in your area.
There are many good resources for support within reach! For example, the children’s hospitals in Fort Worth have staff members who specialize in helping children and families prepare for surgery and can provide counseling as needed. If you would like to learn more about pediatric plastic surgery, please feel free to contact my office. I will be glad to discuss your questions and concerns during a consultation.
Dr. Emily J. Kirby is a board certified plastic surgeon specializing in plastic and reconstructive surgery at Kirby Plastic Surgery in Fort Worth. A graduate of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee and Texas A&M University College of Medicine, she is board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, and is a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and American Association of Pediatric Plastic Surgeons. Dr. Kirby is fellowship-trained in pediatric and craniofacial plastic surgery. To read all of Dr. Kirby’s articles on the FWMB, click here.