Traditional Face Lift: Step-By-Step

1
Anesthesia Is Administered

The first step in face lift surgery is the administering of anesthesia. Some surgeons prefer the use of general anesthesia, while others believe that a combination of local anesthetic, mild sedatives and a light intravenous sedation is sufficient for patient comfort. Be sure to discuss your anesthesia options and concerns with your surgeon.

2
Surgeon Makes Incisions

The surgeon makes the incision for a traditional face lift surgery beginning in the temple area behind the hairline, then continuing down in front of the ear, and circling around the ear lobe back up to the point where it started, in the scalp. Care is taken to position the incision in a natural skin crease so it is camouflaged from view.

3
Muscle and Connective Tissue Are Repositioned and Tightened

The surgeon pulls the skin outward to gain access to the underlying muscle and connective tissue. He or she then repositions and tightens the tissue, securing it in its new position with sutures and/or tissue glue. Some fat may also be removed or repositioned at this point.

4
Excess Skin Is Trimmed Away

After the tightening of underlying tissues, the excess skin is trimmed away. Care must be taken to cut precisely so as not to ultimately alter the patient's features or facial proportions, or to leave the patient with the dreaded "wind-blown" look.

5
Incisions Are Closed

The surgeon will use fine sutures, staples, and possibly more tissue glue to close the incisions and promote healing.

6
Healing Begins With the Application of Dressings

The patient's face will be wrapped in sterile surgical gauze, completely covering the incision sites. These bandages will remain in place for at least 1-2 days. In some cases, a drainage tube may have been inserted during surgery as well. In these instances, the drains will usually be removed along with the bandages, 1-2 days following the surgery. Sutures are generally removed after one week, and healing of the incisions is usually visibly complete in 2-3 weeks.

7
After Care Instructions Are Given

Your surgeon will prescribe pain medication for you and instruct you to keep your head elevated when lying down and to avoid strenuous activity. You should expect some bruising and swelling, though some patients find that cold compresses help to minimize swelling. Recovery from face lift surgery usually takes about 2-3 weeks.

Sources:
interview with Adam Tattelbaum, MD - conducted on 12-17-07
American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons
American Society of Plastic Surgeons
interview with Steven Denenberg, MD - conducted 12-14-07

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