Liposuction and tummy tucks are not the answer for obese kids

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In light of recent media coverage on teenagers seeking surgical options to lose weight, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) cautions that liposuction and tummy tucks are inappropriate procedures for weight loss.

In fact, a recent editorial in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (PRS), the official medical journal of the ASPS, discusses the lack of scientific data supporting the use of body contouring procedures to fight childhood obesity.

"The teenage years can be extremely tough for kids who are teased about their weight; however, liposuction and tummy tucks are not the answer," said ASPS President Roxanne Guy, MD. "My message to young kids -- proper diet and exercise are still the best ways to slim down."

According to the PRS editorial, the use of liposuction to improve the health status of an obese individual, regardless of age, is not currently supported by scientific evidence. In fact, a 2004 New England Journal of Medicine study shows the use of liposuction does not provide the same health benefits as diet-induced weight loss in obese people.

"There is no doubt some teenagers may physically and psychologically benefit from having plastic surgery," said David Sarwer, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology, Center for Human Appearance, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and lead author of the PRS editorial. "For example, ear surgery or nose reshaping may significantly improve a teenager's self-esteem and body image. The desire to be thin, no matter how strong, does not justify the use of body contouring procedures to treat childhood obesity when there is no data supporting their effectiveness."

"Liposuction can be ideal for patients who have reached physical maturity, are at or near their ideal body weight, and have stubborn, localized deposits of fat they want removed," said Dr. Guy. "The best candidates for a tummy tuck are those bothered by a large fat deposit or a loss of skin elasticity resulting in loose abdominal skin that won't respond to diet or exercise."

According to ASPS 2006 statistics, only two percent of all cosmetic plastic surgery procedures were performed on teens. The top three procedures were nose reshaping (47,800), male breast reduction (14,000) and ear pinning (10,000). ASPS also has an informational briefing paper on Plastic Surgery for Teenagers on its website at .

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) is the largest organization of board-certified plastic surgeons in the world. With more than 6,000 members, the Society is recognized as a leading authority and information source on cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery. ASPS comprises more than 90 percent of all board-certified plastic surgeons in the United States. Founded in 1931, the Society represents physicians certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery or The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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