Understanding Facelift: Rhytidectomy

The skin of the face and neck tends to loosen with age, gradually forming wrinkles around the eyelids, on the forehead, and on the sides of the mouth. Pouches or “jowls” may develop along the jaw line and extra folds may form over the front part of the neck, forming a “double chin.”  Rhytidectomy, which is commonly called a “facelift,” is the operation designed to diminish the changes of aging in the face and neck. It involves lifting and removing the excess skin of the face, neck and temple.

Other procedures may be performed at the same time as a facelift to enhance the desired results. For instance, submental liposuction may be needed to remove excess fat under the chin; plastic surgery of the eyelids and forehead can reduce wrinkling in these areas; and a laser procedure may be required to eliminate fine lines not improved by the facelift.

How is the surgery performed?

The incision for facelift operation begins in the temple hair above and in front of the ear. It extends down just in front of the ear, around the ear lobe, up behind the ear, and then backward into the hair of the scalp. Working from this incision, the skin is released out into to the temples, cheeks, and neck. The underlying muscle and connective tissues are repositioned and excess skin and fat are removed. Occasionally, a small incision is made under the chin to help with the correction. Then the skin edges are sutured. Scars from these incisions can be well hidden in the face surrounding the hairline.  The facelift surgery normally takes between two and four hours. When it is completed, a bulky dressing is applied and the patient is escorted to a recovery area.

  What should you expect after surgery?

Even though most patients experience minimal pain after surgery, the surgeon will still prescribe medication. Some degree of swelling and bruising is unavoidable, and your surgeon may instruct you 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. Recovery usually takes two to three weeks, though many patients go back to work in two weeks.