Facelift surgery has a low rate of complications among board certified plastic surgeons. However, every surgery carries risk. Be sure to discuss the possible risks and complications with your plastic surgeon so you feel fully informed before surgery.
Some patients have serious reactions to the anesthesia or sedation used during surgery. Most anesthetic complications occur with general anesthesia. Possible complications include abnormal heart rhythm, blood clots, death, heart attack, malignant hyperthermia , nerve damage, and temporary paralysis.
Aspiration occurs if you vomit (aspirate) during surgery and the vomit is forced into the lungs. Aspiration can cause mild discomfort, and can also lead to infections, chronic cough, an obstruction in the lungs or pneumonia.
Bleeding is normal with any procedure. However, if there is excessive bleeding, it can create major complications. If this occurs during surgery, your plastic surgeon and anesthesiologist will be aware of by pooling blood or by a blood pressure drop. If bleeding occur after surgery, it can accumulate under the skin and require an additional surgery. Discuss with your physician what you can expect as far as bleeding and bruising.
Blood Clots (DVT)
A blood clot in the veins can be fatal. Longer operating time and general anesthesia increase the risk of a DVT. They can occur as a result of a medical condition or from immobilization (which allows the blood to pool) such as pregnancy, international airplane flights, and recovery from surgery. They are difficult to predict. To help prevent them, during recovery do not stay in one position for too long and flex your feet often. Patients who have liposuction in their legs are at higher risk. Compression garments worn reduce the risk of DVT.
Drop in Blood Pressure
Some decrease in blood pressure is normal during surgery. However, a sudden drop due to blood loss could lead to irregular heart beat and possibly a heart attack.
The risk of infection is less than 1% and antibiotics reduce this risk dramatically. However, if infection does occur, it is very serious. People who smoke, take steroids or have certain vascular conditions are at greater risk. The longer your surgery lasts and the more blood you lose, the more likely you are to have an infection.
If the sutures come loose this can lead to internal bleeding or a hernia. Such problems would require additional surgery.
Source: The Surgery Handbook.