Facelift Surgery (Rhytidectomy)

Aging of the face is inevitable, and the process involves many factors. The two primary factors are the pull of gravity and the loss of fullness (fatty tissue) in the face. Heredity, personal habits, and sun exposure contribute to the aging of the face. The facelift is the quintessential procedure in facial plastic surgery. It is the ultimate in surgical rejuvenation for a more youthful face. As the aging population grows, it is obvious why face lift surgery has become the third most desired facial plastic surgical procedure.

Am I a good candidate?

The trend in facelifts is to have surgery at a younger age. The typical patient is likely to be in their 40s or 50s and may be just beginning to see some signs of aging, however the surgery can be performed as late as your 70s or even 80s. When performed at a younger age the results last longer because there is more elasticity in the tissue. Younger patients may also benefit from a simpler procedure such as a mini-facelift, with faster healing and a shorter incision. Timing for facelift surgery ultimately depends on when the patient is mentally and aesthetically ready. It is important not to wait too long for the procedure because the skin becomes less elastic and deeper lines form, it becomes harder to achieve a truly natural looking result.

Understanding the surgery

Each person is different in how he or she ages and the approach for each patient needs to be individualized for the best result. Dr. Heinrich will analyze your face during the consultation and with your input, will determine the best plan for you. It is very important that each patient have realistic expectations. The surgery is done on an outpatient basis. Depending on the extent of the surgery, the process can take from two to four hours. Although general anesthesia is most commonly used, when the procedure is performed with a combination of mild sedatives, local anesthesia, and a mild intravenous anesthesia (“twilight sleep”), the patient will experience little discomfort. Generally, incisions are made within the hairline above the ear, extending down around the lobe and ending in the hairline. The subcutaneous layers and muscles are tightened, the facial skin is redraped and lifted and the excess skin is removed.

What to expect after the surgery

Even though most patients experience minimal pain after surgery, Dr. Heinrich will still prescribe medication. Some degree of swelling and bruising is unavoidable, and you may be instructed to use cold compresses to keep swelling to a minimum. If a dressing has been applied, it will be removed within one to two days. All sutures and staples are usually removed within five to 10 days following surgery. You will also be instructed to keep your head elevated when lying down, to avoid as much activity as possible, and to report any undue discomfort. Although there are few complications in facelift surgery (thousands are performed each year), some risk exists in any surgery.

It is generally recommend that patients avoid vigorous activity. Patients should prearrange for post-surgery support from family and friends. Recovery usually takes two to three weeks, though many patients go back to work in two weeks. Scars are usually not noticeable after enough time has passed for them to mature. In any case, they are easily disguised in natural skin creases, by the hair, or, in persistent cases, by makeup until total healing has occurred. Since surgery does not stop the aging process some relaxation of tissues can occur over the first few weeks. The goal of an artistic facelift is a natural result without the tell tale signs of being “overdone”. Results last five to ten years, depending upon the patient.