Interview with Dr. Vinay Kumar, Professor and Senior Plastic Surgeon, Department Burns, Plastic and Maxillofacial Surgery, Safdarjung Hospital, New Delhi on the increasing number of teens opting for cosmetic surgery these days.
VP: What percentage of plastic surgery cases do teenagers account for?
Dr. Vinay Kumar: Teenagers account for ten to twenty percent of total plastic surgery cases. However, if looked at aesthetic surgery specifically, the number would approximate to about eight to ten percent.
VP: What are the surgeries that teenagers approach you for?
VK: These days teenagers mostly come in for correction of facial profile especially rhinoplasty (surgery of nose). Quite a few of them also come in for removals of localized fat collection (liposuction).Teenagers also come for for breast augmentation and reduction. What is highly surprising is that most of the parents approve of the procedure or give in to their child’s demands. Most of the time, it is left to us to convince them against such surgeries, and, counsel them on hormonal changes at puberty and further development of their bodies.
VP: Would you say that this tendency of opting for cosmetic surgery is more prevalent in females as compared to males?
VK: Not really. Male patients are equally conscious of their facial profiles and the percentage of males and females opting for surgeries like rhinoplasty is almost equal. A number of male patients go for Gynecomezia Surgery which essentially involves reduction of enlarged and protruding male breast which tend to give a very abnormal look.
VP: Have there been instances where you have refused to perform surgery?
VK: Yes, I have refused surgery many times especially breast surgeries. Teenagers do not realize that during puberty the body undergoes a lot of changes (both in male and female). Hence, breast surgery is not recommended unless there is some other problem like a burn scar on the breast that can hamper its proper development. To perform surgeries like rhinoplasty and genioplasty (surgery of chin) the patient has to be at least sixteen to seventeen years old so that the development of the face is complete.
VP: You have been in this profession for the past several years, has there been any significant difference in the quantity and form of patients in these years?
VK: With increasing incomes and the enormous exposure provided by the media these days there has definitely been an increase in the demand for such surgeries. Surprisingly, we are approached by these teenagers with plenty of information that has been downloaded from the internet and a number of queries regarding the same. However, it is left to us to counsel them on pre and post operative complications and explain the emotional as well as the physical implications of such a surgery to them.
VP: What are the possible reasons for such a trend among the youth these days?
VK: The huge importance that is given to physical appearance these days is unbelievable. Teenagers as it is have to deal with a lot of physical and emotional changes and with the enormous amount of media exposure this situation has worsened. However, what is surprising is the fact that these teenagers come in with parent approval. Most of the parents give in to their demands. It is left to us to counsel both the child and the parents. We have counselors to deal with exam anxiety and stress but what the system really needs and lacks is counselors to advice parents and teenagers alike on this situation.