Face Lift and Neck Lift (Cervicofacial Rhytidectomy)

Over time, factors such as repetitive facial motions and the effects of gravity can contribute to signs of aging in the face and neck. Skin becomes loose, wrinkles form, facial fat pads descend and muscle banding begins to show in the neck. These signs are often out of proportion to a person's overall health and how an individual feels, acts and lives.

A face lift surgically reverses some of the visible signs of aging. Though the improvement is only temporary, it offers many aesthetic benefits to men and women who seek it. The procedure repositions facial fat, tightens superficial muscle and removes excess skin using incisions around the ears, sideburns, scalp and under the chin.

In addition, muscle bands in the neck can be addressed in many individuals. Unfortunately the effects of gravity, which begin immediately after surgery, make the improvement incurred only temporary. And complete elimination of aging signs can not be achieved through this procedure. This procedure can offer significant visible improvement however.

Patients often describe themselves as looking "more rested" and more youthful after the procedure. Face lift surgery is often combined with other procedures, such as eyelid surgery (blepharoplasty), forehead lift (brow lift) or facial resurfacing for a more complete aesthetic renewal.

The Consultation

Initial consultation should typically take 45 minutes to an hour. Your plastic surgeon will use the initial consultation to obtain a medical history, examine the patient and thoroughly discuss his or her concerns and goals. He will also discuss my observations and recommendations for treatment as well as skin care preparation of the skin for the procedure.

The examination assesses such issues as bone structure, brow position, forehead contour, and eyelid appearance. Chin position, skin changes and degree of soft tissue descent in the face are also evaluated, as well as degree of fat and skin redundancy and muscle banding within the neck. After examination, he can discuss observations and make recommendations regarding potential treatments.

Because each patient is unique with his or her own individual taste, only certain signs of aging may be bothersome to a particular person. It is through careful pre-op consultation that he will understand how to individualize a treatment to suit the needs of an individual patient.

The Surgery

The procedure should only be performed in an accredited surgical facility and anesthesia administered only by board certified anesthesiologists. Though the procedure can vary for individual patients, it usually involves tightening of superficial muscle and muscle cover and removal of redundant fat and skin.

Re-approximation and division of the neck muscle bands may also be performed to decrease their visibility. Sculpting of the neck by removing excess skin and fat may also be performed if needed. If desired, other procedures such as chin augmentation, eyelid surgery (blepharoplasty) or a brow lift may be performed at the same time.

The Recovery

To decrease post-operative discomfort, local anesthetic will be placed to the face, scalp and neck and before the surgery. Other post-op pain is generally well controlled with a cooling mask and oral pain medicine. Patients usually spend 1 to 2 nights in a post-op facility for safety and comfort. Though ambulation is encouraged the first night, any strenuous exercise should not be done for at least 3 to 4 weeks following the procedure. For safety's sake, patients should not drive until oral narcotics are no longer required for pain.

Though many patients can note an aesthetic improvement their face by the end of the first week, it typically takes at least 2 to 3 weeks for most of the swelling and bruising to disappear. Healing of the scars tends to continue for 1 to 2 years. For the first month, many report tightness of the skin, though this will be eliminated though natural stretching of the skin. It should be noted that takes some time for most patients to become accustomed to their new appearance.

What Are Some Of The Particular Concerns Regarding Face Lift Surgery?

Though face lift surgery offers many benefits most patients love, there are some important considerations to take into account before undergoing the procedure. For instance, a change in facial appearance will occur which potential patients must be ready for. And though the purpose of a face lift is to achieve an improved, natural-looking appearance, if the tissues are pulled too tightly, an unnatural result is achieved.

On the other hand, if they are not pulled tightly enough the effects may not be as great as the patient wants. Walking the "tightrope" to achieve the best results, a good surgeon would prefer a "less pulled" rather than a "more pulled" result for his patients. Scarring should also be considered. While scars do fade over 1 to 2 years, they never disappear completely.

The risk of temporary or permanent injury to facial nerve branches are also inherent to the procedure. It should be understood that these injuries can result in an inability to move areas of the face, forehead or neck. Though this effect is generally temporary, it can be permanent. Poor healing can also occur, particularly in smokers. It essential patients stop smoking for at least one month before the procedure and for at least 2 weeks after.

Making the decision

Every surgical procedure has its benefits, risks and limitations. It is important potential patients become as informed as possible about all these benefits and risks before undergoing the procedure. By using pre-operative consultations to ask questions and express concerns, an individual can determine whether undergoing face lift surgery is right choice.