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Your guide to facelift surgery (rhytidectomy)

Cosmetic surgery marking

Face lift surgery is the third most requested cosmetic surgery procedure, following breast enlargement and eyelid surgery.

The majority of procedures are carried out by private practice, rather than through the NHS, and most treatments are undertaken without complications by competent and professional surgeons. Any doctor who practices cosmetic surgery should have undertaken specialist training and is required to be on the Specialist Register in Plastic Surgery at the General Medical Council.  However, these rules do not apply to doctors who registered with the Council before 2002.

If a facelift treatment fails because of the negligence of the surgeon, you can be left with:

  • Permanent scarring
  • Nerve damage
  • Loss of muscle function or sensation
  • Tissue death
  • Psychological harm

The long term consequences of poor cosmetic work can have a considerable impact upon quality of life and social interaction. Further procedures and treatment may be necessary to put things right and counselling is also likely to be required.

Your Legal Friend has many  years of experience in helping clients who have suffered disfiguring facelift injuries caused by cosmetic surgery. We can help you obtain justice and compensation to ensure the financial needs of further remedial treatment, support and counselling will be fully met.

Face and neck lift statistics

  • 6,402 face/neck lifts were performed on men and women in the UK in 2014, a rise of 1% on 2013.
  • 6,380 face/neck lifts were carried out in the UK in 2013, the third most performed procedure behind eyelid surgery and breast enlargements.
  • 41,364 cosmetic procedures were performed on women in 2014, of which:
    • 6,075 face/neck lifts were performed on women in 2014, a rise of 39.5% and a total of 1,720 procedures since 2008.
    • 4,355 face/neck lifts were performed on women in the UK in 2008.                     (British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons – BAAPS)

What is facelift surgery?

Facelift surgery is a treatment designed to tighten and smooth skin that has become wrinkled, loose and sagging due to age-related loss of elasticity. The procedure is sometimes combined with brow lift or neck lift surgery.

Types of facelift surgery

There are many different types of facelift surgery, depending on:

  • Different  types of incision used
  • Area of the face being treated
  • Invasive intensity of the procedure

The most popular types include:

Skin Only Facelift – a traditional procedure to the lower face and neck. No muscle tightening is involved and therefore has minimal risk to underlying facial muscles and nerves. Considered less durable over time than other methods.

Midface Lift – wheresoft tissues in the cheekbone area are lifted to alleviate the appearance of folds and hanging skin around the nasal area and in the middle of the face.

Traditional Facelift – also known as SMAS (Superficial Musculo-Aponeurotic System). Muscle layers are repositioned and tightened for longer term stability.

Deep Plane Facelift – amodification of the traditional facelift involving a deeper plane of the patient's face before lifting and repositioning the muscle. Certain muscle layers will also be separated from deeper muscles and/ or other facial structures.

Subperiosteal Facelift - performed at the very deepest layers to an area directly on top of the facial bones.

Thread Lift, Feather Lift – medical sutures (stitches) or tailored surgical thread hook into the facial tissue and pull it into a new position.

Additional treatments may also involve:

Liposuction – a procedureoften performed during facelifts or neck lifts to remove excess fat from different areas of the face and neck.

Fat Transfer (Lipostructure) – where fat is removed from an area of the body, usually the stomach or thigh, and strategically injected back under the patient’s facial skin to achieve the required fullness of shape.

Risks and complications

All surgical procedures carry risks but the specific risks associated with facelifts are:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Blood clots under the skin – can occur in up to 10% of patients within 24 hours of surgery
  • Face swelling
  • Infection
  • Permanent scarring
  • Nerve damage – can occur in up to 7% of procedures
  • Loss of muscle function or sensation
  • Loss of skin and hair
  • Uneven features
  • Skin colour changes – persists for months but eventually fades
  • Tissue death – smoking increases the risk by a factor of 12.

Before facelift surgery begins

A cosmetic surgeon should find out whether a facelift is an appropriate procedure for a particular patient. It is essential that the surgeon takes you through a detailed consultation and examination of your medical history before proceeding further.

There is an increased risk from cosmetic surgery if you have a specific medical condition, such as an autoimmune disorder (where the body’s defence system attacks its own cells or tissues) or heart disease.

Not all underlying conditions pose a health risk when undergoing a facelift procedure. A surgeon should know of any health concerns so that necessary precautions can be put into place.


The surgeon should ask if you smoke.

Smoking can increase the risks of surgery and slow down the healing process.

It is generally advised that smoking should stop at least two weeks before and two weeks after the surgery, and for longer if possible.

Planning a facelift

Once the surgeon is satisfied that a facelift procedure is an appropriate solution, a surgeon and patient should put in place a personalised treatment plan.

Typical requirements should include:

  • Type of facelift
  • Type of anaesthesia
  • Location of the incisions
  • How the doctor will close the incisions
  • Which procedures, if any, should be combined with the facelift
  • Approximate recovery time

Post-procedure depression

Up to 50% of women will experience short-term depression in the first month following facelift surgery, caused by the distorted unnatural appearance of the face from swelling and bruising.

Facelift surgery – do I have a claim?

There are always risks involved when undergoing any type of surgery. The slightest mistake can leave you with serious injuries and scarring for life.

Your surgeon should have made you fully aware of where complications may occur in your particular facelift procedure. The surgeon is also responsible for ensuring that your surgery is performed to an acceptable standard.

You may have a claim for negligence if :

  • Your surgeon was negligent at any stage, before or after the surgery
  • You have suffered facial disfiguration or substantial scarring
  • You have suffered nerve damage to the face and surrounding areas
  • You have suffered bleeding under the skin
  • You have suffered the trauma of psychological damage
  • You have suffered associated injuries affecting your eyes, nose, mouth or even ears

How Your Legal Friend can help you

When a cosmetic treatment goes wrong or complications arise, it is vital to seek professional legal advice immediately.

Many of the problems associated with facelift procedures can be prevented if:

  • A thorough pre-surgery examination had been carefully carried out.
  • You were given the full facts and clear advice about potential complications and the limited benefits of a treatment or surgery.

As experienced clinical negligence specialists, we know that you will be feeling devastated that your procedure went wrong and fell below the expected, appropriate standard.

We ensure your case is properly investigated and your voice heard in order to bring the surgeon to account for the harm and suffering they have caused, and to prevent others from suffering in a similar way.

Your Legal Friend is committed to ensuring victims of clinical negligence obtain answers and receive appropriate compensation so that their future medical treatment and care needs are properly met.