Top surgery significantly improves quality of life for transmasculine young adults

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A first of its kind study has found that top surgery in transmasculine adolescents and young adults can significantly improve quality of life.

While the positive effects of top surgery have been studied in trans adults before, this study focused specifically on trans young people ages 13 to 24.

Conducted by researchers from Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine, the study compared trans patients of similar ages who had top surgery to those who did not. It matched people up based on age, as well as how long they had been on testosterone therapy so the comparisons could be as direct as possible.

Using measurements known as the Chest Dysphoria Measure, the Transgender Congruence Scale, and the Body Image Scale, the researchers found that “top surgery is associated with improved chest dysphoria, gender congruence, and body image satisfaction in this age group” and that it is also “associated with low complication rates.”

The authors of the study emphasized that all patients “were assessed for surgical readiness according to the World Professional Association for Transgender Health guidelines.”

They also said that most patients in both the surgical group and the control group “identified as transmasculine, were white, were not Hispanic/Latinx, and were never smokers.”

The researchers pointed out that patients in the study who were younger than 18 had similar improvements in quality of life compared to the older patients.

“Findings from this study can help dispel misconceptions that gender-affirming treatment is experimental and support evidence-based practices of top surgery,” they wrote.

“Our retrospective review demonstrated associations between chest dysphoria and anxiety and depression; top surgery can improve chest dysphoria, thereby leading to improvements in quality of life. Our results also corroborate studies that gender-affirming therapy improves mental health and quality of life among TGNB [transgender and nonbinary] youth.”

The fact that top surgery improves quality of life “has been well documented in adult patients, but until now it hasn’t been well described in teens and young adults,” Dr. Sumanas Jordan, who directs Northwestern’s gender pathways program and co-authored the study, told Pink News. “We hope the study will inform physicians and parents as they assess a youth’s readiness for gender-affirming medical or surgical treatment.”

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