Patients who have undergone a facelift rate themselves as looking an average of 12 years younger after surgery, according to a study in the February issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery®, the official medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).

After a "significant" recovery period, the vast majority of patients undergoing facelift surgery are satisfied with their results, according to the study by Dr. Eric Swanson, a plastic surgeon in private practice in Leawood, Kansas. "These findings support the recommendation of surgical facial rejuvenation to patients who wish to look younger," Dr. Swanson writes.

For Most Patients, FaceLift Improves Appearance and Quality of Life

Dr. Swanson performed a detailed analysis of the outcomes in 122 patients who had a facelift between 2002 and 2007. The patients were 82 women and 11 men, average age 57 years. The patients were interviewed an average of seven months after their operation. Most underwent other cosmetic plastic surgery procedures, such as forehead lift and/or eyelid surgery, at the same time as their facelift.

The patients were highly satisfied with their results. The "average subjective reduction in apparent age" was 11.9 years, with a range of 0 to 27½ years. Ninety-seven percent of patients said the results met their expectations. Forty percent rated the results even better than expected.

Nearly 90 percent of patients said they had received positive reactions from other people regarding their new appearance, while only seven percent reported negative reactions. More than 80 percent of patients reported improved self-esteem, and 70 percent reported improved quality of life.

Just over one-third of patients reported some type of complication, although these were mainly temporary problems (for example, dry eyes). Just two percent were unhappy with their scars.

New Insights into Expected Recovery Times

Dr. Swanson also asked in detail about recovery after facelift surgery. On a scale of 1 to 10, the average pain rating was 5. Pain lasted an average of ten days, with six days on prescription pain medications. Most patients felt that pain was about what they expected or less.

Recovery was fairly prolonged, with an average of 24 days off work. Patients resumed driving after about two weeks and were able to sleep comfortably again after about two-and-a-half weeks. Patients said it took about one month before they looked "presentable" in public, and two-and-a-half months before they were "back to normal."

Patient satisfaction and quality of life are key considerations in assessing the results of any type of surgical procedure. Yet few studies have evaluated these outcomes in patients undergoing facelift surgery for facial rejuvenation. "Patients often inquire as to how painful the surgery will be, the length of recovery, and when they can get back to their normal activities, including return to work," Dr. Swanson writes. "These questions merit investigation so that patients can be given reliable advice on what to expect."

The new study provides important data on the expected results and recovery time after facelift surgery. Although results vary, most patients are highly satisfied with their results, reporting a more youthful appearance, improved self-esteem, and better quality of life. The results will be useful in counseling patients on what to expect before facelift surgery. "They may plan appropriately for surgery and avoid unwelcome surprises," Dr. Swanson writes. "Well-informed patients are more likely to be satisfied."

American Society of Plastic Surgeons
Lippincott Williams & Wilkins

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