What are the risks associated with face lift surgery?

Complications due to face lift surgery are rare and usually minor if they do come up. However, individuals’ facial structures vary as do their physical responses to surgery. Therefore, the outcome is not always completely foreseeable. Complications can include hematoma under the skin, slow healing of wounds (especially in smokers) and minor infections. Major complications such as the disturbance of the nerves that control the movement of facial muscle tissue are possible although extremely rare.


What do I need to have in mind before deciding on face lift surgery?

A face lift can often turn back the clock on aging and give an individual a more youthful and vibrant appearance. Often the surgery brings a certain level of satisfaction and positively affects self-esteem and self image. However, a face lift will not drastically alter a person’s appearance or bring back the vitality of youth. It is therefore necessary to have realistic view of the likely outcomes of the surgery and carefully review your expectations. This is something that you should be prepared to discuss with the surgeon openly and honestly. It is uncommon that people under 40 receive this type of surgery. The older the individual is, the more visible the effects of the surgery are likely to be.


How do I prepare for face lift surgery?

After the initial interview and a decision to proceed has been made, the surgeon will carefully examine your face, skin, underlying muscle, fat deposits and bone structure.  He will then discuss your objectives with the surgery. He will review your medical history and current state of health and identify any risk factors. It is vital that you tell the surgeon about your habits regarding smoking and drinking and whether you are on any medications or supplements.  Prior to the surgery, the surgeon will give you detailed information on how to prepare for the surgery, which may include details on fasting, smoking, prescriptions and health supplements. The surgeon will review practical information such as whether you will be able to drive after surgery and what you should have ready at home upon your arrival, including what assistance you may need.


Where is the surgery performed?

The surgery is performed at in an operating theatre at Domus Medica Medical Centre in Reykjavík. Dr. Stefánsson and Dr. Einarsson‘s offices are on the 4th floor and operating rooms on the 6th floor.


Will I require anaesthesia?

The majority of face lifts are performed under general anaesthesia, although they can be performed under local anaesthesia with or without an analgesic/sedative. The anaesthetic is administered by an anaesthesiologist who is present during the surgery until a few hours after you have woken up. Anaesthesia has improved greatly in recent years, resulting in safer surgical procedures with shorter recovery times and lowered likelihood of nausea and other complications.


What happens during the surgery?

Usually a downward sloping incision is made within the hairline along the temple and in front of the ear where a natural crease in the skin occurs.  The incision continues under the ear lobe and up and around the back of the ear, ending within the hairline behind the ear. The skin on the cheeks and neck is peeled away from its supporting tissue and excess skin and fat are removed. Tissue and muscles may be tightened and the skin is smoothed out while the incision is closed. Bandages are put on the wounds to minimise bruising and swelling.


How long does the surgery take?

A face lift can take anywhere from two to five hours to perform. Sometimes eyelid surgery is performed at the same time, further lengthening the time of the procedure. Upon completion of the surgery, you are monitored while waking up by anesthesiologist and trained nurses until it is determined that you are able to go home.


How will I feel immediately following the surgery?

Any pain and discomfort caused by the procedure can be reduced by prescribin pain medication issued by the surgeon.  Face lift surgery does usually cause minimal discomfort. Bandages are usually removed after two or three days. Some swelling and bruising will usually occur, making it impossible to determine the success of the surgery until five or six days have passed. Sutures are removed in two phases, with the first set being removed in five or six days and the remainder ten to twelve days after surgery.


How long will it take to fully recover?

You can expect to be up and walking the day following surgery although it is recommended to take it easy for the first week. You should expect to stay at home in the days following the surgery, as you may feel some discomfort. Your breathing and facial movements may be affected due to swelling and there may be visible bruising for two to three weeks after surgery. You should avoid combing your hair, as the skin along the hairline could be numb and you could be unaware of any damage you may be causing.   Usually these side effects are gone after three weeks and you will feel close to normal. Most people can go to work after 10-15 days.
The surgeon will give you further instructions on how to proceed, but do avoid planning major activities in the weeks following your surgery. Alcohol should be avoided in the days following your surgery and steam baths and saunas should be avoided for few weeks. Plenty of rest is highly recommended.


What expectations can I have regarding the change to my appearance?

Usually people see a positive change within the first few days after surgery although the final results are not completely evident for few weeks.  After swelling and bruising have subsided, the skin may seem drier and coarser than before the surgery for up to a few months. Carrying moisturiser is recommended. Although there is some scarring after this surgery, the incisions are located in areas that can be hidden with hair and they do become fainter with time.  Most people that receive face lifts are happy with the outcome and it is safe to say that face lift surgery has among the highest levels of satisfaction of any cosmetic surgery. It should be emphasised, however, that this is not age defying surgery.