Over time, gravity and sun exposure take their toll on the face and neck. Deep creases that run from each side of the nose to the corners of the mouth appear, the jawline slackens, and the neck develops loose folds and fat deposits. A facelift (rhytidectomy) counteracts these signs of aging by tightening muscle, removing fat, and trimming excess skin, giving the face a fresher, more youthful look.

What can a facelift do for me?

A facelift improves the look of the lower and middle areas of the face, and the neck. It is most effective for correcting the following:

  • Mid-face sagging
  • Deep creases under the eyes
  • Nasolabial folds
  • Jowls
  • Sagging fat
  • Loose skin and fat under the chin and jaw

Although a facelift removes or reduces signs of aging, over time, they will gradually reappear. A facelift does not improve the look of the brow, eyelids and nose, and some parts of the mid-face. A patient who wants to improve those areas might combine a facelift with a brow lift or eyelid surgery, and/or with injectable soft-tissue fillers, facial implants, and skin resurfacing.

Who are good candidates for a facelift?

The best candidates for a facelift want to correct one or more of the signs of aging indicated above, have some facial sagging, but still have elasticity in their skin, are generally healthy and do not smoke, and have realistic expectations about what rhytidectomy can do.

How is a facelift performed?

A facelift is typically performed as an outpatient procedure in an office-based facility, surgery center, or hospital. Patients may have a choice of IV sedation or general anesthesia. The procedure takes about 5 hours. The way a facelift is performed depends on the surgeon, the patient's facial structure, and the extent of correction desired. The types are traditional facelift and limited-incision facelift. In both methods, incisions are closed with stitches. Scars are hidden in the hairline and natural contours of the face.

What is the recovery from a facelift like?

After a facelift, the surgeon wraps the head in bandages and may place temporary drainage tubes. The tubes are generally removed 24-48 hours after surgery. Sutures and staples are generally removed 1 week after surgery. Swelling, numbness, bruising and a feeling of tightness or tension in the face and neck may be felt. The face may look uneven or distorted, and facial muscles may feel stiff. Most of these side effects resolve within 3 to 6 weeks, and sensation typically returns to normal within a few months. Scars become less red, raised, lumpy, and itchy over time.

How long do the effects of a facelift last?

Results of a facelift are not permanent, and some patients choose to undergo another in 10 years. In some sense, however, effects are permanent; years later, the face continues to look better than if rhytidectomy had not been performed.

What are the risks of a facelift?

Possible complications of a facelift include bleeding, infection, bruising, swelling or discoloration, allergic reaction to the anesthesia, skin necrosis (usually only in smokers), nerve injury, and temporary or permanent loss of sensation in the face.

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