Chest Reconstruction Surgeries Up Nearly Fourfold Among Adolescents

Eliza Partika

October 17, 2022

The number of chest reconstruction surgeries performed for adolescents rose nearly fourfold between 2016 and 2019, researchers report in a study published today in JAMA Pediatrics.

"To our knowledge, this study is the largest investigation to date of gender-affirming chest reconstruction in a pediatric population. The results demonstrate substantial increases in gender-affirming chest reconstruction for adolescents," the authors report.

The researchers, from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, Tennessee, used the Nationwide Ambulatory Surgery Sample to identify youth with gender dysphoria who underwent top surgery to remove, or, in rare cases, to add breasts.

The authors identified 829 chest surgeries. They adjusted the number to a weighted figure of 1130 patients who underwent chest reconstruction during the study period. Of those, 98.6% underwent masculinizing surgery to remove breasts, and 1.4% underwent feminizing surgery. Roughly 100 individuals received gender-affirming chest surgeries in 2016. In 2019, the number had risen to 489 ― a 389% increase, the authors reported.

Approximately 44% of the patients in the study were aged 17 years at the time of surgery, while 5.5% were younger than 14.

Around 78% of the individuals who underwent chest surgeries in 2019 were White, 2.7% were Black, 12.2% were Hispanic, and 2.5% were Asian or Pacific Islander. Half of the patients who underwent surgery had a household income of $82,000 or more, according to the researchers.

"Most transgender adolescents had either public or private health insurance coverage for these procedures, contrasting with the predominance of self-payers reported in earlier studies on transgender adults," write the researchers, citing a 2018 study of trends in transgender surgery.

Masculinizing chest reconstruction, such as mastectomy, and feminizing chest reconstruction, such as augmentation mammaplasty, can be performed as outpatient procedures or as ambulatory surgeries, according to a 2018 study.

The study was supported by a grant from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences Clinical and Translational Science Awards Program. Smith has received grant funding from Merck. Jones reports no relevant financial relationships.

JAMA Pediatr. Published online October 17, 2022. Full text

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