Inevitably ageing robs one of their youthful glow, leading invariably to sagging skin and the formation of the unwanted signs of ageing such as wrinkles and fine lines. The rate of ageing is influenced by factors such as genetics, stress, sun exposure and so on. Because the face forms such an integral part of one’s identity, it is not surprising that cosmetic procedures such as rhytidectomy or facelifts have become easily accessible procedures. Of course, each surgery carries a certain degree of risk even in the hands of a qualified surgeon. The possibility of complications or risks are real and there is always the odd chance that some problems could appear post-surgery. In this blog we will discuss some of the potential and most common problems associated with facelift surgery.
Hematoma and Bruises
When a pool or pocket of blood that bears close resemblance to a bruise forms beneath the skin it is known as a haematoma. This is a complication experienced by at least 2-4% of patients following a facelift. The risk of developing hematoma is prevalent in almost all surgeries. Generally, it is treated by another surgery which drains the blood safely. If the extent of hematoma is fairly large, then it can prove to be a dangerous complication. Should you notice a reddish or purplish swelling on your face that is larger and more sensitive on one side than the other, contact your surgeon immediately. Bruising is a common side effect of a facelift which is caused by damage to the blood vessels. Bruising tends to require little treatment and starts fading after a couple of weeks.
Swelling after a facelift is normal and expected. Everyone heals differently—but some retain a little more fluid for a longer period of time. Two weeks after the procedure, most can return to work, and through the use of makeup, patients can conceal the signs of surgery in around 14 days. However, the swelling might still be slightly visible for at least two or three months post-surgery and for the swelling to completely disappear, it could take upto six months. A fairly accurate indicator to determine whether the swelling has subsided is to check for the firmness of the skin. If the skin feels soft and normal to the touch, then the area is considered to have recovered. If the facelift focuses on the central face or the cheek area, persistent swelling is to be expected.
Tiny lumps along the incision
The formation of tiny lumps that occur along the site of the incision is often reported by many patients. The causes of these bumps are varied and fluid retention, primarily from the lymphatic fluid, can cause these bumps. As the body heals, the formation of scar tissue may not occur in a uniform manner, in some areas the tissue could develop fibrosis, an accelerated firm lump that can cause some contour deformity. Depending on the severity of the scar tissue, lymphatic drainage, ultrasound, or the administration of cortisone injections can treat those areas. The other causes of these bumps can be attributed to hematoma formation or bacterial infection.
Tightness in the neck region can occur after a facelift but this should alleviate after a few weeks. The tightness can be caused by swelling which pushes up against the tissue and can feel like there is a tight band that is a bit uncomfortable and slightly painful. The tension could also be attributed to the surgeon tightening that region a little more intensely. This is done to compensate for the loosening that occurs as time passes. Avoiding frequent movement of the neck and sleeping in an elevated position can help ease the discomfort.
Although it is not unusual for patients to experience some degree of numbness in the face, neck, or scalp after facelift surgery, this sensation should improve as the small nerves of the face grow back together. On average, any potential numbness typically resolves within three to six months of your surgery. Ideally you should be able to feel some sensations, if there is prolonged numbness, contact your surgeon for guidance.
Motor Nerve Damage
The possibility of nerve damage is a rare risk. The damage could either be temporary or permanent depending on the level of damage incurred on the tissue. If the damage is temporary, the muscle strength will be reduced in some areas, however, as time progresses, the nerves regenerate and normal functioning is restored. Permanent nerve damage is possible and occurs in around 2% of cases. Despite these possible problems, in the hands of a skilled surgeon, the possibility of complications is reduced significantly, thus you should not let the fear of damaged nerves get in the way of your goals, the best form of preventive measure is to choose an experienced and qualified surgeon.
Patient safety and satisfaction is taken very seriously by me and my team. We are committed to offering you excellent care throughout your treatment journey and helping you achieve the results you aim for. I hope that this blog has been useful and has given you more information about the factors associated with facelifts. Have more questions? Don’t hesitate to reach out to me and book an appointment.
About Dr Rodrigo Teixeira
Dr Rodrigo Teixeira, MD, FRACS is a Plastic Surgeon in Melbourne, highly experienced in Cosmetic Surgery, Rhinoplasty and Facial Surgery. Dr Teixeira is a fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS), member of the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) and Australasian Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (ASAPS). Internationally, he is a member of the American and the International Societies.