Womens Health

Cosmetic Surgery Facelift

With the added awareness the media has brought to the phenomena of plastic surgery, increasing numbers of men and women are seeking out these procedures. In fact, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 9.2 million Americans had some form of cosmetic surgery preformed in 2004, a growth of 5 percent over the previous year. Among the top five contenders in this category was the facelift – or rhytidectomy – with over 114,000 surgeries performed in that year alone.

But what exactly is a cosmetic surgery facelift? Who is it best suited for, and what are the risks involved?

What is a Facelift?

Put simply, a facelift is a plastic surgery procedure designed to reduce the appearance of sagging, drooping and wrinkled skin on the face and neck, which may be a result of aging, sun exposure, diet, or genetics. Facelifts are frequently performed in conjunction with other types of cosmetic surgeries, including an eye lift (blepharoplasty), forehead lift, neck lift, and/or liposuction for a more complete effect.

The surgery is performed while the patient is conscious, although local anesthesia is commonly used in order to help the patient relax. However, a general anesthetic can be given if the patient makes a request.

To begin, an incision is made on the skin inside the hairline at the temple, in front of the ear, which then moves around the earlobe, finishing at the scalp. The surgeon will then remove fatty tissue and loose skin, and tighten any sagging muscles and connective tissues. The incision is then closed using stitches (sutures).

Generally speaking, a facelift surgery should last about five hours, depending on whether it is being performed in conjunction with any other plastic surgeries. Final results can take up to six months to become visible. In the meantime, many patients report having experienced numbness and skin discoloration, although permanent nerve damage is rare.

Types of Facelift Surgery

Before you decide to have a face lift, you should look into the different types that are available, as each is tailored for specific results. These include:

  • Deep Plane Facelift. This type of facelift is best suited for older patients who are experiencing severe sagging. That is because the procedure offers the most dramatic, as well as the longest lasting, benefits (up to fifteen years after surgery). Deep plane lifts involve lifting and repositioning the underlying tissue layers and muscles of the face, as well as the "jowls" (jaw line), chin, and nasolabial folds (skin in between the nose and mouth). This is a commonly practiced procedure, although it is associated with a number of potential side effects, including infection and excessive bleeding.

  • Mid Facelift. This type of facelift is typically suited for patients between the ages of 40 and 50, or those experiencing sagging cheeks and nasolabial folds. It involves several small incisions along the hairline as well as inside the mouth so that fatty tissue layers can be lifted and repositioned with ease. It is also generally considered to be safer than the deep plane lift.

  • Thread Lift (Feather Lift, Aptos Lift). A thread lift is best for people in their late 30s or early 40s, who are looking for less dramatic improvement to their skin. It is considered to be a non-surgical cosmetic procedure. This is because it involves re-draping the skin without disrupting underlying tissues or muscles. It provides a generally modest effect in the treatment of sagging skin around the eyes, forehead, and nasiofold. These benefits, however, do not generally last longer than five years.

Life After a Cosmetic Surgery Facelift

Most patients who have undergone a facelift report being pleased with the results once they are fully recovered. However, that can take some time.

Once the surgery is complete, a small, thin drainage tube may be temporarily placed under the skin behind the ear so as to drain any blood that might gather there. This will be removed one to two days after being inserted. Patients will also be required to wear a bandage for one to five days, which is wrapped loosely around the head to minimize bruising and swelling. Pain medication can be administered if patients experience any discomfort. Many experience temporary numbness, though this should disappear within several weeks or months.

Patients will also be asked to keep their head elevated on two pillows for several days following the surgery in order to limit swelling. Any stitches or metal clips in the hairline will generally be removed within five days post-surgery. However, they may be left in if the scalp requires longer healing time.

Risks and Cost of a Facelift

As with any plastic surgery, facelifts carry their own set of possible risks and complications. These include:

  • Reaction to the anesthetic
  • Infection
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Pocket of blood formed under the skin (hematoma)
  • Skin that is lumpy or puckering
  • Numbness in the skin (particularly the lip)

If you are considering having a facelift, be sure to discuss all of your options, as well as any potential risks and complications associated with the procedure, with your health care professional.

The average cost of a facelift ranges from $6,000 to $15,000.

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