Serious complications from facelift surgery are extremely rare. However, complication risks should be addressed and discussed with your surgeon. Risks during a facelift procedure can be minimized when the surgery is performed by an experienced facial plastic surgeon, just as risks are minimized for other types of surgeries when performed by surgeons with specialized experience in those fields. Below listed are of some of the complications you should discuss with your surgeon.
Bleeding is one complication that may occur during recovery after a facelift. Generally, a patient experiencing this problem will notice more oozing from incision areas than expected, together with increasing swelling or pressure. If the blood collects underneath the skin, a hematoma may form. Your surgeon will insert a tube and remove this excess blood. Typically, excess bleeding or a hematoma will not impact the result of the facelift. The likelihood of this risk ranges from 1% to up to 5%. You should ask your surgeon about his/her hematoma rate.
It is rare that a patient will develop an infection from a facelift. However, your surgeon should still provide you with a prescription for prophylactic antibiotics to help minimize any risk of infection. Signs and symptoms of an infection include increased redness, swelling and pain. Your surgeon will typically treat an infection by draining any excess fluids and/or with antibiotics.
Patients are often concerned with what types of visible scars will be left after a facelift procedure. Your surgeon will do his/her best to hide any incision lines in the natural creases in your skin and your hairline. Incision lines usually blend in with your natural skin and flatten into a very thin unnoticeable line over time and may virtually disappear. Persons with darker skin will have a greater risk of abnormal scarring, which can be raised, hypopigmented (light), or hyperpigmented (dark). If you have had this happen in the past from incisions or scars elsewhere on your face or body, you should discuss this with your surgeon.
It is possible to lose hair on areas on which the surgeon has made incisions. However, your surgeon should be very careful in making incisions such that your normal tufts of hair cover these lines or the incisions are placed directly in the natural folds of your skin where no hair is present. In particular, if you wear your hair up and are concerned about noticeable hair loss in the incision areas, you should talk to your cosmetic surgeon about these issues.
Your surgeon will typically place incisions in a natural crease around the earlobes where it is hidden and heals well. While the position of your ear will not change, the shape of your earlobe may be slightly different after your procedure. Most patients are not even aware of the shape and contour of their earlobes. Patients who wear earrings will be aware of the placement of their earrings and how they may hang. Some patients may experience a lengthening of their earlobes after a facelift. Most of the time, this can be prevented by your surgeon. If an earlobe change does occur, it can often be improved by your surgeon.
It is common for patients to experience numbness around their neck and ears following a Facelift. This is normal and will improve over the course of a few months. Of greater concern is an instance in which there is interference with normal muscle animation of the face, e.g. a patient is unable to move one side of his or her lips as well as the other. This can be temporary if the facial nerve was injured during the course of the procedure and eventually the nerve branches will grow back and animation will resume. On the other hand, this may be permanent if the facial nerve branch is severed during the facelift procedure. With qualified facial plastic surgeons, this feared complication has been extremely rare.
You should thoroughly discuss your cosmetic goals with your surgeon prior to surgery. Your surgeon should inform you about realistic expectations of your procedure as well as any limitations. An experienced facelift surgeon will have an honest discussion with you about what he can and cannot achieve. During your consultation, your surgeon should point out and show you on your face how he thinks the final result will appear. Additionally, your surgeon may show you before and after photos of other patients with facial structures and skin types similar to yours to give you an idea of typical results. Patients are most satisfied when both the patient and surgeon agree on the surgical plan and expected results prior to the procedure.
Tubes & Drains
Ten years ago, surgeons needed to perform facelift in a hospital and patients were required to stay at the hospital from one to three nights. During their recovery “drains” or tubes were inserted to drain the excess blood and tissue fluids in order to prevent a hematoma, or blood collection, under the skin. In later years, scientific data has shown that the use of drains does not necessarily reduce the hematoma rate in patients.
Today, the use of tubes and drains is a personal preference that varies from surgeon to surgeon depending on his/her training and experience.
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