Facelift surgery can be carried out either under local anaesthetic with sedation or under general anaesthesia. There is an overnight stay in hospital. The risks of general anaesthesia include deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism, but these are very rare during this type of surgery. Other risks of general anaesthesia include chest infection. The risk of a serious adverse outcome under general anaesthesia is less than 1:100,000.
The specific risks relating to facelift surgery include:
Bleeding – Less than 5% risk and may require a return to theatre to stop any bleeding and relieve any pressure on the skin.
Bruising – To be expected and varies between patients. Usually resolved by ten days.
Unfavourable scarring – It is not unusual for the scars in the hairline to stretch a little as most of the tension when pulling the skin is concentrated in these areas. The visible scars in front of the ears usually settle very well and in most patients are inconspicuous.
Nerve damage – There is a risk of damaging the facial nerve which is responsible for the movement of the face. If permanent this is a serious complication, but the risk of this happening has been reported as being under 1%. Such an injury can result in weakness of the facial muscles of expression.
Numbness – Patches of numbness are typical initially and tend to recover with time. Very rarely there is a risk of numbness to the lower part of the ear.
Delayed healing and skin loss – This can occur secondary to bleeding or if too much pull is placed on the skin when closing the wounds.
Revision surgery – A small number of patients may require revision surgery to deal with complications or unsatisfactory cosmetic outcomes.
Asymmetry – Minor degrees of facial asymmetry are often present before surgery and are likely to persist after surgery.