Rhytdectomy (Facelift)

The term rhytidectomy is derived from the Latin word rhytid, which means wrinkle, and ectomy, which means removal of; thus, rytidectomy-commonly known as facelift surgery-is the removal of lax skin. These wrinkles can be related to age, hereditary or environmental factors. Not everyone ages at the same rate. A great deal of the aging process relates to your tissues and what you do to care for them. There is no magical age to make the decision to have a facelift. The appropriate time to have a consultation is when you no longer like what the mirror tells you. This may be in your 30s or your 80s.

A facelift is considered to be a major operative procedure. Like any extensive surgical procedure, operative incisions and complicated surgical stitching is required. Contrary to popular belief and despite some newspaper and magazine articles, this is not as simple as having your hair set or a facial. Also, contrary to some non-medical reports, it is not possible to remove all the folds and eliminate all the wrinkles of the face, regardless of the treatment applied. You must accept your cosmetic surgeon's judgment and realize that he will only remove the skin of the face that can be done safely and suitable for you particular facial contour. The facelift procedure can improve wrinkled skin, but skin type and patient age are important factors in the final result.

Are You a Good Candidate?

The facelift can do more than improve the appearance of facial skin. It can also be a tremendous boost to a person's self-esteem. While there is no "right" age to undergo rhytidectomy, your cosmetic surgeon will evaluate the condition of your skin and may discuss alternate or additional treatments with you. In combination with a facelift, other procedures may be performed including: eyelid surgery; forehead lift; facial implants; partial chemical peel; laser resurfacing; Botox; lip enhancement; chin augmentation; nose reshaping or liposuction.

It is important for all patients considering a facelift to have realistic expectations. People commonly ask, "How long will it last?" This is impossible to state, as there are many factors involved-the amount of skin removed; age and condition of the patient; skin type, as well as its condition and texture; amount of previous sun and wind exposure as well as healing ability. Skin aging continues after this operation, even though the excess skin and wrinkles have been removed. On rare occasions, a minor secondary procedure may be advisable. The operation does not stop the aging process.

There are Risks in all Surgical Procedures

There are risks in every surgical procedure and these will be thoroughly discussed with you prior to surgery. This procedure will result in some scarring. The experienced cosmetic surgeon will make every reasonable effort to make these scars as inconspicuous as possible. Some blood may accumulate under the skin. Your doctor can remove this. A minor crust may appear on the incisions; however, this is a temporary problem. Slight numbness may be noted around the ears, cheeks and incision areas. This, also, should be temporary. Infection and areas of skin or hair loss are possible, but uncommon. Nerve damage is a rare occurrence. Today, there are new innovations and techniques that help to make the final results safer, longer lasting and appear more natural.

Before Surgery

Patients are instructed not to smoke for two weeks before surgery and two weeks after surgery. Smoking can delay healing and cause complications. Prior to the operation, the patient is instructed to shampoo with surgical soap. This is done at home the night before and, again, at the surgical site on the morning of surgery.

You may be requested to take some medicines before your surgery. Do not take aspirin or aspirin-containing compounds for two weeks before or two weeks after your surgery. At the first sign of hives or rash, discontinue all medication and call your physician immediately.

A facelift may be performed in an outpatient facility or in a hospital setting, under general or local anesthesia. In some cases, the operation may be performed on an outpatient basis and the patient returns home following the procedure. Other physicians may hospitalize the patient for one to two nights. Rhytidectomy may be performed in a hospital or an outpatient facility. Within the first week you may experience minimal discomfort, but most patients can and should resume normal activities. Be sure to follow your cosmetic surgeon's advice to ensure a satisfactory outcome.

After Your Surgery

Immediately after surgery, bandages are placed about the head and face for 24 hours. A scarf may be worn to cover stitches until they are removed. Keep bandages and incisions dry until sutures are removed. Ask your physician when you can bathe or shower.

Patients can expect some swelling of the face and eyelids and some discoloration is common with any type of facial surgery. This is most notable on the second and third days and diminishes in approximately 12 days. This also depends on your type of skin, age and healing ability.

Your physician will prescribe pain medication. Take all medication exactly as ordered. The patient is encouraged to report to the surgeon any significant pain not readily relieved with pain pills or if minor bleeding, redness or other drainage is noted around the incisions. It is not uncommon to feel some postoperative depression after major surgery.

Make-up may be applied over the skin of the face up to the edge of the surgical scars approximately seven to 14 days following surgery. No hair coloring or stripping should be performed until your cosmetic surgeon gives permission. Other coiffure procedures may be carried out approximately two weeks following surgery. Do not allow anyone to pull on your hair or roughly massage the scalp. A hair dryer, if used, should be set at medium to cool heat. This is important if any numbness, especially around the ears or temples, is noted. Do not wear earrings until sensation has returned to your earlobes.

Social activities may be temporarily limited. Strenuous exercise should be avoided for four to six weeks. Your physician may ask you to remain within traveling distance of the doctor's office for approximately two weeks.

Post-surgical questions should be directed to your cosmetic surgeon. It is unwise for you to accept advice from individuals unfamiliar with your specific operation. Call your surgeon if any medical problems arise.

The New You

Remember that healing is a gradual process and it may be several weeks before you will begin to see the new you. After the healing period is complete, a facelift can make you look younger, and improve your self-confidence.

Provided by the American Association of Cosmetic Surgery (AACS)