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Face Lift Report

By James Barber M.D.
Cosmetic Surgery Expert
Updated: September 10, 2008
How is a facelift done?

During a typical facelift, your surgeon will make incisions that start just behind your earlobes. He will bring these around your ear and into your hairline where scars will not be noticeable. Once the incisions are made he will free the skin from it current position on the tissue and pull it up and back. Some tissue adjustments may also be made to enhance the younger appearance. Additionally he or she may make a small incision below the chin and remove fatty tissue to help smooth the chin and neck.

S-shaped or short-scarred facelift are a newer, less invasive procedure for younger patients who are experiencing moderate laxity of the lower face. They are also good for patients who wish to restore the initial effects of an earlier facelift. In this operation, a small s-shaped incision is made with the curvature of the ear. Recovery times are less and scars are smaller.

Some patients who only need very small, very specific work done may be eligible for endoscopic facelifts. A scope, or small tube, is used and scars are a few carefully placed dots. Recovery times are much shorter with this procedure.

What should I do before surgery?

Certain precautions can be taken to maximize the safety and effectiveness of your facelift. Your surgeon will give you the specific instructions that relate to you personally, but here is what you can expect. Stop smoking. Permanently is best and will enhance your results, but for safety you will need to stop smoking for a week or two before and after surgery. Your surgeon will give you the specific instructions that relate to you personally, but here is what you can expect. Stop smoking. Permanently is best and will enhance your results, but for safety you will need to stop smoking for a week or two before and after surgery. You will given specific instructions for each and every medication or supplement that you take. If you have short hair, you may choose to let it grow a little longer to cover your incisions during the healing process. Finally, you will want to make all of the necessary preparations for time off and needed care during your recovery.
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What happens on the day of my operation?

Facelifts can be performed in a number of places. Hospitals, outpatient facilities, and office surgical suite are all options. Most procedures, regardless of where they are performed, will be outpatient, but in some cases a one night stay will be required.

Your anesthesia can be administered locally (to the effected area), but general (sleep tight) anesthesia is more common. Either way you will not feel anything during the actual procedure. Naturally, your vitals will be constantly monitored as with any other operation.

Once your surgery has been completed, you will awaken in a recovery room with bandages wrapped around your face like a mummy. Often, there will be tubes beneath your bandages to assist in draining fluids. You should not experience much pain, and you will be prescribed medication to help minimize it.

What is the recovery schedule?

In the initial week following your surgery, your swelling increase until it peak and then begin to subside. Your bandages will be removed, allowing you to bath or shower with extreme caution. Your stitches will be removed by your doctor unless they are designed to dissolve naturally. Very light, non-strenuous activity may be permitted, but you will need to keep your head safely elevated. You will be allowed to use certain kinds of make-up to help hide the temporary discoloration.

By the second week, most of the bruises will go away. You will be able to resume most of your normal activities, but nothing strenuous. During this week you must still be cautious and try to keep your head somewhat elevated.

Within several weeks of surgery your swelling will completely subside, allowing you to see your results. You will be permitted to resume exercise and more strenuous work after examination and approval by your doctor. You may still experience some numbness for up to several months, this is not certain, but not uncommon. It is also important to note that you must avoid direct sun exposure and use sun block during your recovery. To maximize your results, you will want to continue to use sun block whenever you are excessively exposed.

When will I see my surgeon?

You will have a few follow-up visits during your recovery period to assess your progress. You may also be asked to return once the final results have set it to evaluate your results and answer your questions.

How long will my facelift last?

The two factors that affect the results of your facelift are heredity and lifestyle. While there isn't too much you can do about heredity, lifestyle has the biggest effect and can be modified accordingly. Smoking and sun exposure are the biggest concerns here, as they will cut years off your results. Weight management is also a concern. Gaining or losing an excessive amount of weight will change your results as well. For most patients, a facelift last for several years, at which point some maintenance work is desired.

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