A facelift is a cosmetic procedure that is performed to improve the visible signs of aging in the face. Wrinkles from stress, sun exposure, and effects of gravity often cause patients to seek facelift surgery. Facelift surgery can smooth out the skin in the face and the neck area, as well as add plumpness to the cheeks, tear troughs, and lips.
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Initial Facelift Consultation
Your Pittsburgh plastic surgeon, Dr. Lori L. Cherup, at Radiance Plastic Surgery evaluates patients for facelift surgery with careful attention. During the 1/2 hour exam, Dr. Cherup will question you regarding your areas of concern, and then also evaluate the areas that she sees would benefit from improvement. This evaluation will analyze your forehead and brows, your upper and lower eyelids, your cheeks and jaw line, and your perioral area. It will also evaluate any problems with your neck musculature and neck skin. She will then put together a menu of procedures that could be employed at the time of the facelift surgery in order to give you a youthful and revitalized facial image.
How is a Facelift Performed?
A full facelift surgery by Dr. Cherup rejuvenates the midface, neck, and jaw line. The incisions run under the side burn, along the front border of the ear, down around the earlobe, the back of the ear, and continue along the lower hairline, then diving into the scalp. With this pattern, your hairline will not change. During the facelift surgery, the facial muscles and fat will be lifted and tightened, the facial skin smoothed and draped upwards and slightly outward, and excess skin will be removed. An additional incision is made along the underside of the chin, so that the neck muscles and skin can be tightened.
Dr. Cherup often recommends that a browlift and blepharoplasty be combined with a facelift for best results. The skin can be further treated with laser skin resurfacing to obliterate minor and moderate wrinkles. Often fat from your own body can be used to plump up a deficient area. This surgery is performed under general anesthesia and can take up to four hours.
After recovering in our Radiance Surgery Center postop area, you will go home the same day with large, fluffy bandages around your head, two drains, and specific postop instructions.
The results of your facelift depend on your skin type, the age at which you have the facelift initially performed, the degree of preexisting sun damage you have, and your overall health. In general, the earlier in your 40s or 50s you have surgery, the longer it will last. The effects of a facelift do not last a lifetime due to the body’s natural aging process, and also environmental factors. Touchups can be performed to further improve a good result. Dr. Cherup can tell you more specifics after examining you.
Facelift Recovery and Possible Complications
Patients usually experience pain for only the first few days. Common initial complaints include skin numbness, tightness, and swelling. There will be stitches and staples used to close the incisions, which will be removed within a two-week period. Most patients at three weeks are presentable at a party with makeup.
The most common complications, which are still very uncommon, include bleeding, infection, temporary or permanent loss of sensation to the skin, poor scarring at the incision sites, asymmetries in the plumpness of the right and left face, skin loss along the hairline, and chronic pain. Dr. Cherup will be happy to further explain the likelihood of these uncommon risks to you. It is important to consider and weigh the risks and benefits before deciding to have any surgery.
Post Facelift Recovery Instructions
Your postoperative care will include managing your initial dressing for 24 hours, and then maintaining your dressings for the next week. The bulky dressing placed at the time of the surgery puts some gentle pressure on the areas operated on, and helps pick up any external drainage of blood or serum. If the dressing is too tight or causes pain, please call our main Pittsburgh phone number at (412) 220-8181, to talk to our surgeon or a nurse. You may be instructed to cut away part of the dressing, especially under the chin. This will usually relieve some discomfort. Removing the entire dressing may cause problems, in the unlikely event that this seems to be necessary. We remove the bulky dressing the day after the facelift surgery, and replace it with a very light one, which you will manage over the following week. After that, there are no more dressings.
Keeping your head elevated as much as possible will reduce postoperative facelift swelling. If you can, it is good to sleep on two or three pillows to keep your head elevated way above the level of your heart.
On each side of your face, a small drain will be placed under the skin flaps and brought out through an incision made behind your ear. These drains evacuate the fluid that accumulates after the facelift surgery and enable you to heal faster. When the drains are first put in place, the bulb at the end of each tube will be compressed to create gentle suction. As the fluid collects in the bulb, it will expand, and you will have to empty it every eight hours and record the drainage. Secure the bulb of the drain to either the dressing on your head or onto your shirt with a safety pin. The evening of the facelift surgery, you will empty the bulb by opening the plug at the top and pouring out the contents. Do not forget to measure it in cubic centimeters. Do not attempt to remove the bulb from the tubing, as this could cause an infection. Squeeze the bulb to recompress it, and put the plug back into the hole at the top in order to maintain the suction. If the bulb fills rapidly after emptying it, or if you need to empty it more than four times a day, please call Dr. Cherup directly to inform her of this situation.
Dr. Cherup or her nurses will remove the drain the following day when we change your dressings. We will clean your face, manage your hair, and replace the big dressing with a lighter, smaller one. Removing the drain feels strange, but not terribly painful. You are allowed to shower and shampoo your hair that evening after your small dressing is put on.
Small amounts of oozing and bleeding after facelift surgery are normal. If any serious bleeding occurs after the facelift, apply firm pressure and call us immediately at (412) 220-8181. The sutures in front of your ears will be removed between four and six days after the facelift surgery. The incision under your chin has sutures, which may be removed at that time also. The staples within the hair and the sutures behind the ear are not ready for removal until 10 to 14 days after the facelift surgery.
Numbness occurs to the skin when the skin is separated from underlying tissues during the facelift. Varying degrees of numbness will be present after the surgery and will gradually improve as the nerves reconnect to the skin. This process can take anywhere from two months to a year.
Tightness is frequently felt in the neck after a facelift. During facelift surgery not only the skin, but the underlying muscles are tightened to create a better and longer lasting neck result. Additionally, the swelling will move down the neck in the first week and the neck will feel even tighter. Do not be alarmed! You will not choke, and the sensation will decrease during the first months.
As the nerves regenerate, itching, burning and tingling — and often shooting pains — will occur. Ice, moisturizers on your skin, and gentle massage are helpful during the phase of healing.
Some degree of firmness or lumpiness under the skin is normal after facelift surgery and will resolve with time. Gentle massage directly on the area will speed the resolution of this problem.
Do not be alarmed if one side of your face is slightly more swollen or numb than the other. This is common and usually disappears within the few weeks after a facelift. Most facelift patients feel reasonably normal within five days after the surgery, even though they are swollen. If you wish to do light office work you may. Do not, however, do any heavy activities or aerobic exercise for at least three weeks after facelift surgery! Strenuous activity can cause increased swelling and bleeding for a period longer than is necessary.
If you have any further questions regarding your postoperative healing, please contact your surgeon, Dr. Lori L. Cherup.
Schedule a Consultation
If you’re ready to restore your youth and vitality through a Facelift, schedule your free consultation.
Call Dr. Cherup at (412) 220-8181 or (877) 441-0639 or use our online form below.
From Our Patients…
“I’m very satisfied with the job you did. You made things a lot easier for me to make the right decision. I would recommend you to anyone that needs surgery. You are not just a good surgeon, but you are a caring and conscientious person. Thank you for everything.”
We are proud to introduce to you our haven of health, beauty, and safe surgery – Radiance – Private Outpatient Surgery Center. Radiance Surgery Center has undergone the most stringent evaluations and inspections, such as those our local and university hospitals have undergone. The Pennsylvania State Department of Health, Medicare, and the Joint Commission for Accreditation of Hospitals have licensed Radiance Surgery Center as a first-class surgical center, and we will be able to bill for all third-party insurance plans for facility fees for reconstructive surgery. Read More.
Joint Commission Information: Radiance Surgery Center is Accredited by the Joint Commission for Accreditation of Hospitals, for any comments or concerns please contact them at www.jointcomission.org Phone: (800) 994-6610