Surgeons must warn their patients of possible complications before any surgery. Surgery is a serious undertaking and a complicated task. And following facelift surgery in particular (scientifically known as rhytidectomy) the complications can be shattering.
A facelift is an elective procedure. It’s not going to save your life or get rid of cancer. It’s an aesthetic choice and we get it. We’re all human. We all want to look and feel our best. So before considering facelift surgery, explore the procedure and all that goes along with it.
- Hematoma – A hematoma is an abnormal collection of blood outside of a blood vessel. This occurs if the wall of a blood vessel wall, artery, vein, or capillary, has been damaged and blood has leaked into tissues where it should not be.
- Nerve injuries – The overall risk of permanent facial nerve paralysis in standard rhytidectomy is between 0.53% to 2.6% (Facial Paralysis Institute). The “short-flap SMAS rhytidectomy” significantly limits the risk for facial nerve injury by limiting facial subcutaneous and SMAS dissection.
- Infection – Infection is something to worry about in any surgery, and is not the most common of side effects of a rhytidectomy. However, dangerous and painful infections can occur at incision sites like behind the ear, as well as seromas. These are a collection of fluid that builds up under the surface of your skin. The fluid doesn’t build up immediately, the swelling and fluid may start collecting several weeks after surgery.
- Skin flap necrosis – Necrosis is skin loss after a face-lift and it’s most common among smokers, because of the effect of nicotine on the blood vessels, which causes the blood vessels to close down. This decreases the blood supply to the skin flaps. And the larger the area of necrosis the longer it takes to heal by scarring (healing can take from three weeks to twelve weeks).
- Hypertrophic scarring – A hypertrophic scar is more common and may fade over time. However, they tend to be an unwanted aesthetic side effect of a facial lift, working against the purpose of the surgery in the first place.
- Alopecia & hairline deformities – While alopecia (or hair loss) is not common, it is certainly in the realm of possibilities and can have many causes. And if the hair follicle was damaged it could be permanent (Dr. Richard J. Brown MD). If it does not return by one year, you can consider scar reduction to pull the hairline back together and narrow the gap, which means more (unwanted) surgery.
- Parotid gland pseudocyst – This is an infection characterized by swelling in the main salivary gland (in front of, and below, the ear). This normally happens between the third and tenth day following the operation. The fluid can be aspirated with a needle during several sessions, or can be suctioned out via a drain inserted into the area of swelling (The Cosmetic Surgery Directory).
There are new minimally invasive procedures, like barbed suture lifting, that have emerged. And with these and other minimally invasive procedures, such as thread lifts, new complications have been reported. These include Stensen duct laceration and suture visibility and extrusion (Medscape).
The cosmetic surgical procedure of a facelift corrects the physical signs of aging. People normally want the surgery in order to get rid of fine lines, wrinkles, and saggy excess skin, or to define their jaw line and gain a more youthful appearance. However, when you consider the possible side effects and complications, it’s in your best interest to explore the natural and non-evasive options.
Your skin’s health starts from the inside. Drinking plenty of water, applying moisturizers and avoiding smoking are three ways you can immediately increase the elasticity and youthful glow of your skin. These are easy actions and steps you can take to prevent even considering a rhytidectomy. Aging is a natural process of life, and who are we to argue with MotHer Nature?