In order to address the wrinkles and facial sagging that are a normal part of aging, an extensive procedure called a rhytidectomy (a “facelift” in common vernacular) offers the greatest degree of overall improvement. During the surgery, the facial skin is lifted away allowing the surgeon to tighten the underlying tissues. The procedure is most often performed under a general anesthetic although in some instances an IV sedative and a local are used. A rhytidectomy requires several hours to complete, so most patients prefer to be asleep. It is not unusual for the surgery to result in a night’s stay in a hospital.
The surgeon makes an incision that begins at the temple and encircles the ear allowing for the skin to be lifted. Some tissue and fat may be removed before the skin is repositioned and the incision closed. Because the incision is placed at the hairline or in areas of natural creasing, there are no visible scars. Patients should expect to be heavily bandaged for one to two days following the surgery and to have a drainage tube that is normally positioned behind the ear. The tube will also be removed in one to two days and the stitches taken out in five to ten days.
Although there is little pain involved, patients are often taken aback by the degree of swelling and bruising that will occur. By keeping the head elevated and using cold compresses this will begin to diminish fairly rapidly with most people returning to their normal routine in two to three weeks. It is important not to smoke and to avoid being near those who are smoking for as much as a month after the procedure. Smoke can cause tissue death, worsen scarring, and seriously delay healing.
A numb, stiff feeling is normal and may continue for weeks or months following the rhytidectomy. A rough and dry texture to the skin is also to be expected. As the skin settles into place and given the proper, doctor-recommended care, these issues resolve themselves in time. Men should be prepared to have to shave in areas that previously did not require attention.
A realistic expectation of the potential benefits of a face lift should be cultivated from the earliest consideration of the procedure. The surgery can result in a more youthful appearance and can reduce evidence of aging to a large degree. It will not, however, eliminate all facial wrinkles in the areas adjacent to the eyes, nose, and lips. Obviously some surgeons are more skilled than others at achieving outstanding results and it is important to carefully select a well-qualified surgeon and to consult extensively with that individual before moving forward with the procedure.
Some complications or post-surgical issues that may arise with a rhytidectomy include bleeding under the skin, reactions to the anesthetic used, and infection. It is possible for facial nerves to be damaged, for tissue loss to occur, for scarring to be more extensive than desired, and even for blood clots to form. Hair loss is also a possibility. Candidates for a rhytidectomy should gain a clear picture of the likelihood of any complications in consultation with their surgeon and in relation to the overall condition of their health.
Insurance does not cover the costs of the procedure and associated fees. The surgery itself averages around $6,000, but can run as high as $12,000 with approximately $4,000 to $6,000 in associated fees.