A Neck lift is an operation designed to correct the effects of aging to the neck and lower face. A neck can also be termed a "mini face lift" or "S lift". As we get older, the effects of sun damage as well as the natural aging process leads to the skin of the face losing its elasticity and tightness. Gravity effects can cause some degree of sagging particularly around the eyes, cheeks, jowl area and neck. Skin wrinkling, laxity and excess are results of these factors.

Operative procedures, such as a face and neck lift, brow lift and blepharoplasty (eye lift) are designed to correct these effects by removing and tightening excess loose skin as well as underlying tissue layers. This will smooth facial contours, removing sagging and giving a much more youthful appearance. It is not usual at the operation to get quite as much tightening as can be obtained with fingers in front of a mirror.

It is however possible to produce a significant degree of improvement. After the operation you should not expect to look a different person but to look "well" or "better for your holiday" when seen again by friends. In order to achieve this, a neck lift will involve incisions or cuts on each side of the face that are hidden along the natural skin crease of the ear and in the hairlines. These incisions are designed in such a way that no one should know you have had the operation.

How long does the operation take?

The operation takes about 2-3 hours depending on the extent in each case and is done under general anaesthesia or twighlight sedation. Following the operation your face will be covered by a well-padded dressing for 24 hours. Your face may feel strange and a little tight and some pain along the incision lines may be experienced. Simple pain relief you will have prescribed should adequately deal with this.

How long do I have to stay in hospital?

Generally, neck lift or mini face-lift can be done as a day stay procedure. The first night following surgery is usually spent with the face bandaged but a day or so later the bandages are removed and the operation inspected and redressed.

When can I return to activities?

Considerable bruising and swelling over the first 48 to 72 hours is usually encountered. This can be expected to settle rapidly by the end of the first week. You will have stitches along the incisions which will be removed at about 7 days. Generally speaking you will be confident and happy to engage in social contact 2 weeks post-operatively.

How long does it last?

After the surgery the aging process continues at its natural rate. Some patients do request a repeat operation years later - it is usually no more difficult than before.

Are there any risks?

As with any surgical procedure, there is a small risk of complications. Surgery and anaesthesia is very safe and it is most unlikely you will experience any difficulty. However, there is a small chance that a minor complication such as bleeding or infection may occur.

Bleeding: Bleeding is the most likely problem that may occur after neck-lift or mini-facelift. It can be problematical in about 2-3% of cases. It is most likely to occur immediately following surgery or that evening. It is possible in cases of persistent problematical bleeding that return to the operating theatre will be required in order to correct the problem. In this event, this may prolong your admission. Taking Aspirin within two weeks leading up to your surgery significantly increases the risk of bleeding. Do not take any aspirin or aspirin containing medications within two weeks of surgery.

Infection: Infection following facial surgery is uncommon due to the superior healing qualities of the facial areas. If infection occurs it will become evident within a week of surgery. This may require treatment with antibiotics. In the unlikely event of infection, the ultimate result of the surgery may be adversely affected.

Scarring: Scarring following surgery may take up to two years to mature and can be expected to be minimal and unnoticeable. However, while great care will be taken to give the neatest incision closure possible, individual wound healing can be unpredictable and it is possible that you may be unhappy with some aspect of your incision line. It is possible for scarring around the earlobe to result in tightness and tethering. Scarring behind the ear can become lumpy and uncomfortable. Scarring in front of the ear may cause tightness and winging of the tragus (cartilage in front of the ear opening). The tension on the face and neck is taken in the hairline. The scars in these regions respond by producing some spreading and a hairdresser may be able to detect them on close inspection. The scar behind the ear may be the most noticeable and it is helpful to have a hairstyle which conveniently covers this area. Keloid scars are rare and not due to a surgical fault but to a peculiarity of some patient's healing process.

Blood supply: It is possible to lose small areas of skin, particularly in front of the ear wound line. It is important not to smoke during the early post-operative period. If you are a heavy smoker, neck-lift may be ill advised and this should be carefully discussed with your surgeon before proceeding.

Swelling and bruising: Bruising and swelling is usual and varies with each patient from being virtually invisible to extensive. Most of the severe cases have settled by about the third week, although some take longer. Swelling of the face may affect contour for some weeks and during this period of settling, improvement in facial contour can be expected. It is likely that close scrutiny of your face following the procedure may reveal some small irregularity in contour or symmetry. Having expectations of improvement rather than perfection is most likely result in post-operative satisfaction. As the final swelling settles, it may appear that the face is beginning to "fall". This is an inevitable minor consequence of the fact that the skin is stretched by post-operative swelling and resolution of this swelling is usually complete within about three months. Fine wrinkles may return during this time.

Nerve injury: Mini-Facelift involves facial dissection very close to the course of the facial nerve. This major nerve of the face is responsible for movement of the face, particularly around the mouth, nose and eyes. It is possible that some temporary or sometimes permanent weakness of a part of the face may result following facelift. It is usual to have some temporary numbness of the cheeks and sometimes of the ears. The risk of such an injury is 1%.

Anaesthetic: You will be receiving a general anaesthetic and your anaesthetist will be discussing with you possible discomforts following anaesthesia. Again, anaesthesia today is very safe and no major problems should be concerning you. Any questions you have regarding your anaesthetic would be best answered by your anaesthetist at the time of surgery. General Information Should there be any questions regarding Neck-lift or Mini-Facelift, be sure they are answered in advance by Dr Drielsma. Well-meaning friends are not a good source of information. Find out everything before proceeding with the operation - a well-informed patient is a happy one. Finally, there can be no absolute guarantee with any surgery. Remember the realistic aim of this operation is improvement, not perfection.

Please note: The above information mentions only some of the benefits and complications of a facelift. This information should not be regarded as a substitute for information and advice provided by Dr Drielsma during consultation.