To Lift or Not to Lift? The 10 most frequently asked questions about face lift surgery

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David Letterman has his “Top Ten List” and so do I. After more than 25 years as a board certified plastic surgeon, I am happy to share the ten most commonly asked questions by patients who are considering facial cosmetic surgery, specifically a “facelift.”

It is a fact that exposure to the sun and environmental pollutants, as well as daily stress, takes its toll upon our facial skin. Add aging and gravity to the equation and a resultant sagging of the skin of the face may occur. Optimal aesthetic improvements can be achieved through individualized treatment plans that may include the recommendation of a surgical procedure.

A common surgical procedure performed to achieve a more youthful appearance is to remove damaged skin of the face. This is termed a Rhytidectomy and is frequently referred to as a “facelift.”. Although each person’s journey is different, patients frequently ask me the following questions:

1. Am I too young for a Face Lift? Loose skin and a loss of contour of the face, along with “crepey” skin of the neck, may actually develop in a person in their mid-thirties and become more pronounced as aging progresses. The average age of the patient having facelift surgery is fifty years old.

2. What can I expect from the Consultation? At the time of your consultation, your goals and expectations will be discussed. You will be asked to verbalize your concerns and together with your doctor, realistic and achievable goals will be established.

3. Where will the surgery take place? The surgery is usually performed on an out patient basis in an Ambulatory Surgery Center.

4. What Anesthesia will be used? This is dependent upon your general medical condition and your doctor’s experienced medical judgment. Your safety is of prime importance. General anesthesia or intravenous sedation may be utilized.

5. How long will the surgery take? Although this is highly individualized, the average surgical time is three hours. During the operation, experienced and licensed anesthesia providers closely monitor your blood pressure, pulse, respiration, temperature and oxygen content. Following surgery, you will be monitored by a Registered Nurse in the Recovery Room until you meet established discharged criteria. At this time, you will be discharged home in the care of a responsible adult (i.e. family, friend, nurse).

6. What instructions must the patient follow at home? A responsible adult must be with you for the first 24 hours after your surgery. Rest is essential, and your head should be elevated on at least one pillow. It is important to wiggle your toes and move your legs as much as possible to avoid blood clots and strenuous exercise is to be avoided. Cold compresses or ice packs are NOT to be applied to the facial skin. Mild painkillers are prescribed and to be taken as needed. You may not drive or drink alcoholic beverage while taking pain medications.

7. Will I have a full facial bandage? There will be a head wrap bandage that generally is removed the following day.

8. What about stitches? Stitches are placed in head and neck folds and creases, as well as into the hairline behind the ears so that they are not highly visible. The stitches are completely removed within 10 to 14 days following surgery.

9. When can I wash my hair and apply make-up? Two days after surgery, the hair can be washed and dried with a cool hair dryer setting. Hair coloring is permitted three weeks after surgery. Make-up can be used at any time; however, the suture lines must be avoided as they are not to be rubbed or thoroughly cleansed during the healing process.

10. When does total recovery take place? Generally, patients are socially acceptable with in 10 to 14 days following surgery. Exercise regimes may be re-established three weeks after surgery. Complete healing is individualized and may require six to 12 months of time.

To locate a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon and obtain additional information regarding Facelift Surgery, please visit the Web site of The American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

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