Home » The Healing Side of Plastic Surgery for Children with Special Needs
Note from Kat: Though not commonly known, plastic surgery is something many parents of children with special needs have to consider, especially if their child has certain rare disorders or other conditions that cause malformations. The rare disorder our boys share, Axenfeld-Rieger Syndrome sometimes requires plastic surgery because of dental and other facial malformations.
Why am I sharing this with you? Because our guest poster, Shayne Harvell, is going to go through this information in greater detail. And I wanted to you to know, if you didn’t already, that plastic surgery is a valid consideration for parents of children with special needs.
Shayne has agreed to stick around to help answer any questions you guys might have in the comments and she is excited for the chance to share with the Cafe readers! Give her a big welcome, okay?
Though plastic surgery is commonly associated with superficial changes, such as tummy tucks, a smaller nose, or a smoother face, plastic surgery—or reconstructive surgery—can be extremely beneficial to patients with special needs, who might have disorders which cause malformations of the body, limbs, or face.
One such disorder commonly treated using reconstructive surgery is Apert Syndrome, a congenital disease that causes deformities in the patient’s face, skull, feet, and hands. When an embryo is developing inside the womb, selective cell death—“apoptosis”—occurs so that the digits on the hands and feet separate from one another.
If the embryo has Apert Syndrome, apoptosis does not occur and thus, the hands and feet often appear webbed, or not separated. As the fetus’ skull develops, Apert Syndrome causes the bones in the face and head to fuse too quickly, resulting in irregular bone development. Because of this, patients with Apert Syndrome often have a large, protruding forehead and flat posterior (back) skull bones. The eye sockets are often spaced wide apart and the ears are low set on the head.
Reconstructive surgery for patients with Apert Syndrome is not undergone merely to change the appearance of the head, face, and digits—though this is a desired result. Instead, doctors must reconstruct the skull bones in order to prevent the fusing bones from pressing on and damaging the brain. Many patients choose to have fused toes and fingers separated in order to increase balance and hand function.
Another disorder which can be treated using plastic surgery is Crouzon Syndrome, which is caused by a mutation on chromosome 10. Like Apert Syndrome, Crouzon Syndrome causes abnormalities in the head and face as the skull develops during the embryo’s early development.
Patients with Crouzon Syndrome often have very low set ears as well as wide, short heads. Eye sockets are usually set far apart and are quite shallow. Reconstructive surgery is often performed to prevent brain damage. If left untreated, often a patient’s skull sutures will close in on the brain, causing pressure and hindering normal brain development.
Reconstructive surgery for those diagnosed with Crouzon Syndrome also decreases the severity of the skull abnormalities.
Botulinum toxin, commonly known as “botox”, is a bacterium produced neurotoxin protein. It is most often used to smooth out wrinkles on the face and hands; however, botox has lately been gaining attention from doctors for uses other than cosmetic.
Botox is used to treat muscle pain disorders, excessive sweating, and muscle movement disorders such as cervical dystonia.
Botox has also been found to decrease unwanted muscle movement in disorders such as epilepsy, cerebral palsy, and Parkinson’s disease. The neurotoxin weakens the muscles that it is injected into, causing muscles to relax and preventing them from tensing up at undesired moments. [Note from Kat: We at one time considered this for Logan because of his cerebral palsy]
Shayne has assured me that she will be around to answer any specific questions and help point out further resources to any of Cafe readers who are interested in learning more about plastic surgery.
While we haven’t had to utilize plastic surgery for our kids yet, we can’t count it out in the future as their dental issues are more understood. I’d be interested in knowing in what ways you might have to consider plastic surgery for your child with special needs now or down the road?