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Face lifts are some of the most common aesthetic procedures performed in the US today. Also called rhytidectomy, this surgical procedure can improve one's facial appearance by reducing sagging skin, improving muscle tone, removing excess fat, and reducing deep creases. Although a face lift can help improve the visible signs of aging, it does not change your basic appearance or stop you from aging.

What to Expect

Face lifts are done under general anesthesia and usually lasts for several hours. An incision is made on the skin from the temple area to the area around your ears. The doctor then tightens your skin and muscles and removes excess fat as necessary. There are some variations to the procedure, which can make it simpler or more extensive, depending on your needs. It may also involve tightening the neck skin, sculpting and redistributing fat, and removing excess skin. You may be asked to stay overnight to recover from the effects of anesthesia and to remove a drainage tube used to drain blood and fluids from your wounds.

Right after surgery, when anesthesia wears off, you may experience facial pain and swelling, which may be relieved with oral analgesics. The most common complication of face lifts is bleeding, which may lead to formation of a hematoma (a collection of blood under the skin). If severe, a hematoma can lead to unilateral pain, deformity, and wound healing problems. Evacuation of the hematoma may be necessary to avoid these problems. Resting and sleeping with the head elevated may help reduce facial swelling and bruising. You may also apply a cold compress to your face to reduce the swelling.

The doctor will remove your bandages and stitches within a few days. During this period, it is best to avoid smoking, which can delay healing, as well as alcohol, which can enhance bleeding. Avoid using clothes that need to go over the head. You will be given instructions on how to bathe or shampoo your hair. You will also need to limit activities that require exposing your head to excessive motion or pressure.

Your face may feel dry and stiff for a few weeks. It is normal to feel some pain, swelling, facial stiffness and distortion for a few weeks. As your wounds heal, they may develop crusts. Avoid picking at your crusts and unprotected sun exposure.

Doctors usually allow patients to return to work 2-3 weeks after their face lift, although the duration of healing may vary for different patients.

Other Complications

A few patients experience other complications after the operation, such as infection, scarring, and nerve injury. High fever and drainage of pus from the wound are signs of infection, which must be treated immediately.

Your face may feel numb for several weeks to months, but in rare cases, paralysis of facial muscles may occur. Some hair and tissue loss may occur in areas where incisions were done.

In rare cases, blood clots may travel from the blood vessels to the lungs, causing pulmonary embolism.

Call your doctor if you experience severe unilateral pain, chest pain, shortness of breath and irregular heartbeats.

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