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.

Anesthesia Complications
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.

Blood Loss
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.

Loose Sutures
If the sutures come loose this can lead to internal bleeding or a hernia. Such problems would require additional surgery.

Source: The Surgery Handbook.



Abnormal facial contour
Anesthesia reaction
Attached earlobe
Blistering of skin (may lead to permanent scarring)
Ear nerve damage (risk is less than 1%)
Early Relapse (risk is less than 1%)
Facial weakness or paralysis
Hematoma (risk is 3-4%)
Infection (risk is less than 1%)
Injury to facial nerves (temporary or permanent)
Keloid (heavy scar)
Loss of sideburns
Nerve Damage
Open ear canal
Permanent numbness (risk is less than 1%)
Reactions to medications
Skin irregularities
Skin necrosis or skin death (1500% more likely with smokers)
Slow healing
Tight face
Visible scar
Weak facial muscles (usually temporary)

Although complications and bad results are infrequent for face-lifts, they do occur. Some complications require further surgery. Complications can cause slow healing, abnormal scarring, discomfort, inconvenience and permanent deformity.

Complications, especially blistering and skin death, are seen much more frequently in smokers. One major study concluded that smokers had a 1500% increase in complications following a face-lift. It is strongly advised to quit smoking as soon as possible, but at least a month prior to surgery and for four weeks following the procedure.

You can help minimize your risks by choosing a board certifed surgeon and carefully following the advice and instructions of your surgeon.