The Risks of Facelifts

The Risks of Facelifts (<i>cont'd</i>)

A facelift promises to revitalize an aging face, it's true, but people shouldn't jump headlong into this elective cosmetic operation without understanding the procedure itself and weighing its potential risks.

Facelift Facts


By removing extra fat, tightening the muscles, and re-wrapping the skin around the face and neck, a facelift, technically known as a rhytidectomy, can improve the most visible hallmarks of aging.

Years of gravity, sun exposure, and daily stress can cause deep creases to form between the nose and mouth, the jaw line to go slack and jowls to form, and the excess skin and fat to appear as folds in the neck area and under the chin.

A facelift basically functions to return an aged face, which tends to take on a square shape, to its younger, oval look. But, clarifies plastic surgeon Richards, a facelift "will do nothing to turn back the clock for the upper face, eyes, and for facial skin wrinkles." Distinct operations such as a brow lift, eyelid surgery, and laser surgery focus on those areas.

Sometimes a facelift is performed under local anesthesia combined with a sedative, which leaves the patient awake but relaxed and insensitive to pain, and in other cases the patient chooses to sleep through the operation under general anesthesia.

Facelift Techniques Vary

Specific facelift techniques vary from surgeon to surgeon, but basically, doctors make incisions that allow them to separate the skin from the fat and muscle underneath. Then they might trim or suction any extra fat from the neck and chin, and tighten the neck, cheek and other muscles and tissues. Finally, they return the skin to its position, trimming off any excess and securing it with stitches and, sometimes, metal clips on the scalp.

A facelift operation can take several hours, or more if it is combined with other procedures such as a forehead lift, eyelid surgery, or skin surface procedures using a laser.

To minimize bruising and swelling after the operation, surgeons typically wrap the patient's head in bandages. Also, they will often insert a small, blood-draining tube under the skin behind the ear.

"I looked like a robot," Joyce recalls of the day she left the hospital following her surgery, "with three drains coming out of my head, a pressure bandage all around my face, and my face all swollen."