Facelifts: What You Need to Know

The Risks

Just as with any surgery a facelift comes with some associated risks. These include:

  • Infection
  • Scarring
  • Reaction to the anesthesia
  • Hematoma - blood that collects under the skin and must be removed by a doctor
  • Damage to the facial nerves - although this is usually temporary
  • Necrosis - tissue death
  • Alopecia - loss of hair at the incision site

In addition, people can die during facelift surgery. Some estimates put the rate at one death per 1,000 of these procedures [ref].

After surgery, the doctor may insert a tube under the skin behind the ear to drain any blood that may pool there. It will be removed within a day or two after the surgery. The patient's head may be wrapped loosely in bandages to prevent swelling, but these can also be removed within a few days. Usually the stitches are taken out within a week after the surgery.

Patients may notice some facial bruising or swelling, but this should diminish within a few weeks. Some numbness of the skin is also normal, and similarly goes away within a few weeks. Although there may be some pain after the procedure, it is usually minimal and can be relieved by over-the-counter medications such as Tylenol. Some patients may be advised to elevate their head and remain still for a few days after surgery to reduce swelling. Patients will also need to avoid strenuous activities for several weeks and be very careful when out in the sun because it can damage the skin.

The results of a facelift are often dramatic, but they are never permanent. With time, those little wrinkles and saggy spots can return. Some people opt to have a second or even a third or fourth facelift to correct the problems.