Facelift Study: Patients Turn Back the Clock 12 Years On Average

Brook Flagg

by Brook Flagg | February 15, 2011 @ 07:00AM

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For those who have wondered what the average age “regression” is for a facelift patient, one study may have the answer. According to a report published in the February issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery®, the official medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), patients who have undergone a facelift have given themselves an appearance assessment, believing that they look about 12 years younger following recovery from surgery.

The researcher, Kansas-based plastic surgeon Eric Swanson, MD, conducted the analysis over a period of five years, from 2002 to 2007. Out of the 122 patients who received a facelift during that period (82 women and 11 men, with an average age of 57), 97 percent said that the results of the surgery met their expectations. Out of that group, 40 percent said the results were even better than they expected. Overall, the "average subjective reduction in apparent age" was 11.9 years (within a range of zero to 27 ½  years).

The interviews were conducted approximately seven months after each patient operation. Although some only underwent facelift surgery, others combined facelift surgery with other facial rejuvenation procedures, such as a forehead lift (a.k.a. “brow lift”) and/or eyelid surgery (“blepharoplasty”). About one-third of the subjects reported a complication; most were minor and/or temporary (i.e., dry eyes).

When performed by an experienced, plastic surgeon, facelift surgery typically results in minor scars that are masked by the patient’s hairline. Only two percent of Swanson’s subjects reported dissatisfaction with procedural scarring.

The study also shed light on facelift recovery. Swanson polled the subjects on their respective recovery periods, asking them to rate their pain on a scale of one to 10. According to the study’s findings, the average pain rating for facelift recovery was five on the scale. The patients’ pain lasted an average of 10 days, with six days on prescription pain medications. Most of those polled claimed that pain was what they had expected or less.

By contrast, total recovery downtime was substantially longer. The average time off work was 24 days. Sleeping comfortably resumed after an average of two weeks. After one month, most patients reported they looked “presentable” in public; around the same number reported feeling “back to normal” after two-and-a-half months. 

The purpose of the study, said Dr. Swanson, was to provide data to help patients prepare for the results and recovery time of facelift surgery. By knowing about the average outcome, "They may plan appropriately for surgery and avoid unwelcome surprises," he writes. "Well-informed patients are more likely to be satisfied."

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