Rhytidectomy is a cosmetic surgical procedure designed to reduce the effect of facial changes brought upon by the aging process, genetics, the ultraviolet rays of the sun, gravity and poor nutrition. More popularly known as facelift, the procedure is the ninth most popular cosmetic surgery in the world, with almost half a million patients annually. It is frequently performed alongside blepharoplasty and submental lipectomy to help in delivering a more cohesive rejuvenation of the patients’ appearance.
Over the last three decades, medical technological advancements have elevated facelifts from simple skin elevation to the more effective superficial musculoaponeurotic system (SMAS) and skin elevation. The frequency of treatment has also been reduced as the staying effects of facelifts have become progressively longer.
Interestingly though, in recent years, rhytidectomy methods have actually veered away from deeper and more aggressive approaches in favour of less invasive options and external volume enhancement of features.
In addition, there is a preconception that facelift should only be performed when women reach their senior years. However, there is a growing body of evidence which suggests that women should in fact consider starting younger. The most obvious benefit is of course in terms of recovery, which is always faster relative to age. The second reason is prevention – preserve the structure of the face before it starts to sag. Early intervention will also allow surgeons to work with still strong and firm muscles and tissues, which gives them the ability to contour your face and chart the aging process to your advantage.
Before and after image of a facelift. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
• Facelifts do not stop the aging process. It is also not a one-time procedure, especially if you do not provide sufficient care and protection to your skin
• Facelifts do not repair skin texture or tone. Additional surgery, as well as therapy and injections and laser treatments may be required (all optional).
• Most facelifts focus on the middle and lower third of the face since skin wrinkling on the forehead is quite easy to resolve non-invasively.
• Facelifts do not address a lack of volume on the cheeks or jawline. A post-surgical intervention is required to transfer fat into the required areas.
Facelift procedures are planned well in advance, and are completely under your control. As such, why not take the time to prepare your face and body to fully optimise the result and reduce the recovery period of the operation?
• Up to three months pre-surgery: Avoid the sun – use sunblock if you must spend time under the sun. Take lots of vitamin A and retinoid, get regular skin treatment (like chemical peels), and keep your skin moisturised.
• Up to one month pre-surgery: Avoid taking aspirin and other anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce and minimise the risk of bleeding and hematoma. Go for a full medical check-up with your regular physician to ensure your body is capable of handling the trauma of surgery.
• One day before surgery: Avoid spicy and greasy food. Drink lots of water and maintain a relaxed state of mind (music is great for this). Remember to bring along clothing that buttons from the front or back (because pushing your bruised and swelling face into a shirt hole is not a very good idea). A scarf and hat may prove useful as well. The operation will take between two and four hours, with potential for an overnight stay, so please keep your spouse or companion in the loop.
After the surgery, the affected areas of your face will bear signs of bruising and swelling. The bluish bruising will usually disappear within three weeks. The swelling with go away even faster – less than a week, in almost all cases. Sutures (and stitches, in extremely rare circumstances) will typically be removed within a couple of days.
You may experience a slight pain or mild burning sensation in the few days after the surgery, but they can be easily managed with the painkillers prescribed. Speak to your doctor immediately if the pain becomes unbearable (a very rare occurrence).
Rhytidectomy is a very low risk operation, but please remain alert for any of the following symptoms:
• Excessive bleeding
• Clotting of blood (hematoma)
• Loss of sensation on the face (nerve damage)
• Reddening, foul smell or pus (infection)
• Shortness of breath (dyspnea)
Contact your doctor immediately if any of the symptoms above manifest themselves.