How Do We Determine That Patients Still Look Younger 5 Years After Facelift Surgery – A Behind The Scenes Report
When people walk into offices for consultation for a facelift surgery, the one question that mostly comes up is, “How long will this last?” You will be surprised to know that despite your surgeon giving you a number, there is little to no scientific proof for any answer to this question.
It is difficult to study patients over a long time period since happy and satisfied patients do not tend to return - why would they, right? Comparing results from photographs also poses challenges since both the before and after and subsequent photos must all be taken in the same way so that they can be compared precisely.
While conducting a research regarding facelift, I came across one practice that was willing to share their personal research information. They have been following a standardized procedure for before and after pictures since 2001. In the following decade, they had more than 1700 patients for deep plant facelifts. While going through the photographs, they figured about 50 of these patients had returned after 5 years or so for other procedures. This presented the perfect opportunity for them to photograph them again. They were now able to study the matter raised by the often asked question of how long a facelift surgery’s result lasts.
Now, for these 50 or so patients who had before and after photographs; this practice had pictures taken during their routine follow ups at 3 and 6 months; and now had new pictures taken at an average of about 5 years after their facelift surgery. This allowed the practice to measure the changes in regards to the various aspects of the face after the surgery. They were now able to see how these changes were retained over 5 years.
But the story does not end there. With the help of a specific computer program, they were able to mark some key points on the face, such as the neck or the jowl, in order to measure the changes in their position after the surgery. The findings showed that there were significant improvements in the lines from the chin to mouth, the jowl and also in the lines from the mouth to the nose. The angle between the chin and the mouth also saw quite some improvement. The long term pictures showed that all the positive changes on the lower portion of the face remained constant. The neck had also largely retained its changes but had moved more towards the pre surgery position compared to other measured areas. The width of the nose or the mouth remains unchanged which helps reassuring a number of patients before the surgery. The corners of the mouth upturn a bit and this is another change which is maintained over the 5 year time period.
However, they did not merely depend on the computer program to come to these conclusions, but showed the pictures to another cosmetic surgeon, an anesthetic nurse and 2 lay persons and asked them what changes they could perceive. In an attempt to reduce errors further, they cropped the photographs to remove any clothes, hair and the like. This further ensured the perception was unaffected by other factors than the face. The observations were, however, similar to what they had ascertained with the help of the computer program.
The conclusion was that the results of facelift surgery will remain unchanged for at least 5 years. There will be no adverse changes like widening of the nose or the mouth. With results that remain constant for that time period, facelift surgery patients can finally take a sigh of relief and enjoy their improved looks.
When asked where the research goes from there, I was told that they will focus on improving the study to further include photographs taken 10 years after the surgery and measure the changes.