Face Lift Recovery
You will feel some tightness when the anesthetic wears off. A head wrap will be placed following the procedure and is left in place until the first morning after the surgery. Dr. Velargo does not use drains. Pain will be minimal, but the constrictive nature of the head wrap may be uncomfortable to some patients. The majority of our patients find this very tolerable, however.
Swelling, bruising, and soreness are to be expected after a rhytidectomy, but post-operative instructions and recommended medications will be given to ease any discomfort. You must be willing to accept temporary swelling, lumpiness, and discoloration. Though somewhat visually disconcerting, most people feel it is a negligible inconvenience to pay for the physical and psychological improvement they experience.
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The head wrap system that Dr. Velargo uses also has integrated ice packs specifically designed to contour to your face. Frequent application of these cool compresses for the first 72 hours helps to speed the healing process along, as well as application of topical Arnica Montana for any visible bruising.
Incisions are cared for 4-6 times per day by cleansing the incision lines with hydrogen peroxide and applying bacitracin ointment. For dark-haired individuals, Dr. Velargo recommends cleansing the incisions with witch hazel to avoid bleaching the hair with hydrogen peroxide.
All sutures and staples are removed at one week except a tiny blue stitch at the corner of each earlobe. This stitch is kept in place for a total of 2 weeks to prevent accidental pulling of the earlobe in the initial healing phase.
You must avoid turning the head or stretching the neck for 2 weeks. When you turn, move the shoulders and head as one unit or as though you had a “stiff neck.” This is important to prevent stretching the healing incisions and causing the scars to widen, as well as to prevent putting tension on the deep sutures beneath the skin, which could cause them to pull loose. Because of this risk, we advise patients to not drive for 2 weeks following surgery.
In order to minimize swelling, you are advised to sleep with the head of your bed elevated or in a recliner for 2-4 weeks post-op. The most common cause of pain post-operatively is not from the surgery itself but from improper posture while sleeping on your back. The hips, back, and head should be in a straight line whenever you are lying down.
With some make-up, your hair worn down, a neck scarf, and thick-rimmed sunglasses, you should be able to go out in public within a few days with minimal attention drawn to yourself. Most patients take 2 weeks off from work after a rhytidectomy and are able to resume their exercise regimen within 3-4 weeks.
Lumps and bumps may be present in the initial phases of healing. These usually go away with time, but we can often speed the healing process with local injections of steroids.
Parts of the face, neck, ears, and scalp will feel weak or “numb” after the facelift operation. This is to be expected and is usually temporary. It may take several weeks or, on rare occasions, months for this to subside, however. The top of the head may itch or exhibit numbness for 6-12 months.
The skin of the face may feel tight for a while, and you may feel that it interferes with normal facial expressions. This should disappear within a few weeks when swelling subsides.
There may be thinning of the hair in areas adjacent to the suture lines at the temple or forehead/scalp and behind the ear. This usually occurs because the trauma of surgery “shocks” the hair follicles. It can sometimes be avoided by closely adhering to the instructions about shampooing and cleaning the suture lines, and the hair generally re-grows over time. The incisions are designed in such a manner that the hair in the temporal area and post-auricular area should grow right through the scars. Should a problem arise, we will advise you on any additional treatments.
After all stitches and/or clips have been removed, the scars will appear deep pink in color. There will be varying amounts of swelling in and around the scars themselves. With the passage of time, the pink should become white, the firmness of the scar should soften, and they should become less noticeable. Each individual varies with respect to healing, but it takes approximately one year for these changes to occur and for scars to “mature.” But if you stretch the fresh scars, expect them to respond by getting thicker in order to “protect” themselves.
Some crusting may occur around incision sites. We can recommend additional measures to soften them, should crusting or thickening occur. Keep in mind that all incisions are designed by Dr. Velargo to minimize visible scarring. So; most scars are easily camouflaged by makeup and hairstyling.
As a rule, 80% of swelling is gone in 2 weeks, and 90% of swelling is generally gone by 2 months. So, do not evaluate the results of your surgery too soon. While you will look younger right away, face lifts continue to show subtle refinement for a significant period of time.
It is not unusual for some people to go through a period of depression after surgery. No matter how much they wanted the operation beforehand and how much they were informed about what to expect postoperatively, patients are concerned when they see their face swollen and, perhaps discolored.
Please be patient and realize that this is a temporary condition, which will subside shortly. The best “treatment” consists of busying yourself with the details of post-operative care and trying to divert your attention to other thoughts (T.V., a book, an unhurried walk in a peaceful place, or an automobile ride along the lakefront).
How long do the results of rhytidectomy last?
The duration of the results achieved with a face and neck lift cannot always be accurately predicted. If sagging was severe, it will obviously take years before the condition becomes as bad as it was before surgery. If the natural degenerative process in the skin is occurring rapidly, wrinkling and sagging will also accumulate more rapidly. This is precisely when “tuck-up” or “spot-welding” procedures are helpful.
A facelift generally helps turn back the clock about 10 years in most patients, but it does not stop the ticking. Nevertheless, most patients look forever younger than had they not had the procedure done at all. The excess skin and fat in the neck and lower jaw is removed at surgery. Any slack seen in the post-operative period is a result of continued aging and breaking down of the skin that remains.
Had the surgery not been performed, the patient would have the “new” sags on top of the “old” sags, which were removed at surgery. Tuck-ups help maintain a youthful appearance in the patient who chooses to have additional surgery. Tuck-ups are generally less extensive, less expensive, and quite effective. Dr. Velargo is also experienced in performing revision rhytidectomy.
Does insurance cover rhytidectomy?
Face lifts and neck lifts are cosmetic procedures, so insurance carriers do not cover these surgeries.
Contact the New Orleans Center for Aesthetics and Plastic Surgery today to find out more about expert rhytidectomy.