One of the most common questions plastic surgeons are asked by patients who are considering facial rejuvenation surgery is, “How long will my facelift last?” Until recently, there were no scientific data on which to base an answer. A study recently published in the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Journal revealed that 76 percent of facelift patients remained younger looking five and one-half years following their procedures, as judged by both patients and medical professionals.

This is welcome news for patients and surgeons, because it validates the long-held beliefs of plastic surgeons, such as me, who have seen that these surgeries have long-lasting positive effects. Since the research was based on a set of standard assessments, this groundbreaking study sets a scientific baseline for studying such procedures.

The study was based on photographic measurements of fifty patients before and after facelift surgery. The comparative measurements concentrated on the jowl, mouth to chin creases, and neckline angle. Computer software was used to take the measurements from digital photographs. This was an innovative standardized approach that may set the bar for future facial studies. Specifically, the jowl area was noted to maintain eighty percent of the improvements obtained even five years following the procedure.

A fascinating aspect of the study involved human interpretation of the computer analysis. The researchers showed the sets of photographs to a plastic surgeon, a nurse trained in cosmetic procedures, and two lay people; the observations of this group were virtually identical to the changes identified by the computer model.

I suspect this team of researchers’ follow-up study will in fact demonstrate even longer-lasting results, as I have seen in my own patients, but the initial data was limited to the length of the study, which was an average of five and one-half years. For now, we have proof that a facelift can give real and lasting aesthetic improvement. I am pleased that my patients can now choose facial rejuvenation procedures with even greater confidence than before.

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