A face lift improves the overall appearance of the face by tightening underlying muscles in the face and neck, removing excess fat accumulated over the years and tightening the skin of the face and neck.
In some cases, a facelift procedure is done in conjunction with other cosmetic procedures such as eyelid surgery, eyebrow lifts, or chin tucks. A facelift will improve creases that form between the nose and mouth (called nasolabial folds) and will reduce sagging facial skin.
What are the benefits?
A facelift procedure will not prevent a patient from aging in the future. It will also not erase fine lines or wrinkles caused by sun exposure and the normal aging process. The improvements face lifts (rhytidectomies) will provide are completely dependent upon an individual's age, skin texture, and overall health. The procedure should improve the patient's self-confidence, and reduce visible signs of aging.
The best results from facelifts are experienced by patients whose face and neck have started to sag or droop, but whose skin still retains some of its elasticity, and whose bone structure is well-defined. Most patients range between 40 and 60 years of age, but facelifts have been successful on people in seventies and eighties. Individuals under the age of 40 should give careful thought before having the procedure.
Younger patients may not see the results that older patients see simply because they have fewer wrinkles and greater skin elasticity. However, some people who have lost excessive amounts of weight, or have genetic problems may want a consult on the procedure.
What will happen at the consultation?
During the initial consultation, you and your surgeon will discuss the changes that you would like to make in your appearance. He will explain the different options available to you, the procedure itself, the risks and limitations, and the type of anaesthesia that will be used.
Your surgeon will also evaluate your general health. The doctor will evaluate structure of the bones, evaluate skin condition and elasticity, and discuss realistic goals with you. It is important to divulge all medical conditions, especially clotting problems and high blood pressure. Disclose any medications that currently being used, especially drugs that will affect clotting, such as aspirin.
How is the procedure performed?
Facelifts are usually performed with general anaesthesia. For patients receiving extensive work, two different surgical procedures may be needed. The placement of incisions depends upon an individual's facial features. The incision usually starts above the hairline at the temple, extending through the natural crease in front of the ear and around the earlobe, ending in the hairline of the lower scalp. A small incision may be put under the chin for patients receiving work within the neck.
The MACS (minimal access cranio-suspension) lift allows a shorter incision which begins just above the ear and ends at the earlobe. The incision must provide the surgeon access enabling him to separate the skin from underlying muscle and fat. Any excess fat is trimmed or suctioned from the face and neck. Underlying facial muscles may be tightened. The skin is stretched upward and back toward the hairline. Excess skin is removed. The surgeon will then secure the skin using stitches and, sometimes, metal clips. A thin tube may be inserted under the skin behind the patient's ear to allow for fluid drainage. The tube is usually removed within the first or second day after surgery.
How long does the operation take?
The entire procedure usually takes 2 to 4 hours.
How long do I have to stay in the hospital for?
You will stay in hospital for 1-2 nights.
What can I expect afterwards?
Plan on remaining in bed or on the sofa for the first few days after the operation. A small drain will be in place on each side which is usually removed the day after surgery. Patients should be able to move around a day or two after surgery. Strenuous activity should be avoided for at least two weeks after the surgery. Discuss resuming any physical activity with your doctor. Most patients return to work from 10 days to two weeks after surgery. The skin on the face and neck should not be exposed to the sun for months after the surgery. The best thing a patient can do for himself/herself is get plenty of rest after the operation.
The patient's skin will be tender and numb after the procedure. It is normal for the face to be bruised and swollen after surgery. Swelling and bruising may last from one week to a month, depending upon the patient and the procedure. Individuals resorb blood into the system at different rates. If a patient tends to bruise easily, and maintains bruises for a long period of time, he or she can expect to be discoloured for several weeks. It is important to keep the head and neck elevated after surgery. Stitches are removed 1 week after surgery.
Numbness of the skin is a common side effect of cosmetic surgery. This could take weeks or months to completely disappear. For several months after the procedure, the skin around the temples may feel dry and may peel, and the hair around the temples may be thin.
Patients will experience some scarring after the operation. The scars may have a pink tint for a few months, but should gradually blend in with the skin tone. After a year or two, the scars should be barely visible. Again, scarring will vary according to the individual. The scars should be hidden within the natural lines and contours of the face. Smokers heal slower than non-smokers. Sun exposure may impact the healing process.
What are the long-term results?
A facelift will not stop time - You will always look younger but the effects of ageing will continue to occur. The scars will fade with time until they are pale and will be hidden in the creases in front of the ear where they will not be readily seen.
What are the risks?
In rare cases, some individuals experience complications with facelift procedures. Many of these complications are dependent upon the individual's health, anatomy, procedure and healing ability. The outcome of any operation in never 100% predictable. Infection and reactions to anaesthesia are complications that may occur with any operation.
Additional complications that may occur include haematoma, which is a collection of blood under the skin, and injury to the nerves that control facial muscles. Haematomas must be surgically removed, and injuries to facial nerves are usually temporary, but may be permanent.
Smoking inhibits blood flow to the skin. Patients must stop smoking at least six weeks before and 2 weeks after surgery. Smoking can interfere with the healing process therefore, possibly resulting in greater scarring or a longer healing process. It is important to follow all of the instructions the surgeon provides, before and after the procedure.