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Studies examine patient satisfaction with facelift surgery – and the surgical vs non surgical quandary

A first of its kind study in 2015 sought to examine the facelift outcomes for 105 patients. The patients, aged in their 40s, 50s and 60s, completed the validated survey 10 years after their facelift surgery in New York. In this article, aesthetic nurse Sr Deborah Seib-Daniel explains how the results of this survey, and other studies, reflect similar sentiments to those she sees in her practice of aesthetic medicine and post-facelift care in our Brisbane and Ipswich clinics.

Despite research showing a significant increase in the number of both surgical and non surgical facial treatments being performed internationally, there is still a lack of local Australian research measuring patient outcomes and satisfaction for these discretionary, and highly subjective, procedures.

The results of the aforementioned US-based study showed that 90% of patients were “highly satisfied” with their decision to undergo facelift surgery; and on average, patients felt they looked 6.9 years younger.

Studies examine patient satisfaction with facelift surgery - and the surgical vs non surgical quandary - 1

before and after facelift, facial fat grafting and blepharoplasty surgery with Dr Sharp

In Nonsurgical Facial Rejuvenation Procedures in Patients Under 50 Prior to Undergoing Facelift: Habits, Costs and Results Jacono et al shared the results of their survey of 157 patients who had facelift surgery before the age of 50 and had undergone nonsurgical facial rejuvenation treatments prior. On average, patients had started non surgical treatments at age 37 and underwent their facelift at age 44. Ninety four percent of patients said they underwent surgery for preventative reasons. Looking at specific age groups, the study found an even higher satisfaction rate for patients in their 40s who previously sought non-surgical treatments to support the ageing process prior to having their facelift, with 94% of them happy that they proceeded with facelift surgery. Ten years after their surgery, they still judged their appearance as being 10 years younger than their current chronological age. This could have also been impacted by ongoing use of non surgical maintenance treatments after surgery as well.

Are fillers or facelift better? Not a case of either/or.

I have the pleasure of consulting many middle aged patients considering the pros and cons of non surgical verses surgical options for their individual facial ageing concerns. Their ‘skin age’ is often older than their actual age. In answering this question it is important for the clinician and patient to weigh up their motivations, objectives and the procedure’s risks and benefits.

Facelift surgery remains the most effective way of tightening the underlying facial tissues and reducing loose skin, but it is not a silver bullet. To maintain and compliment their results, most facelift patients also undertake an ongoing maintenance routine of dermal filler to replace lost bone structure and fat pads, and skin treatments including laser to improve sun damage, skin condition and pigmentation. As a practice, we are very upfront about this if patients are looking for a holistic result that addresses facial shape, skin laxity and condition.

Taking the age of patients out of the equation, we know that lifestyle choices, genetic disposition and health factors age us at different rates. In Queensland in particular, we see premature and accelerated ageing due to excessive sun exposure and environment-induced skin damage, so demand for both preventative and interventional procedures is high. A patient in their early 40s can appear physically older than a patient in their 50s due to UV exposure or stress. Collagen stimulators, neuromodulators, dermal fillers, and skin care all have a very important part in improving and maintaining the aging process, but at a certain point a surgical approach may be required, and as aesthetic clinicians, we need to be judicious and honest with our advice.

Our clinics support an ethical and sensible approach; not only because it is unhealthy to be fixated on eradicating every single line or wrinkle – but also because facial treatments need to realistically respects a patient’s natural age, facial characteristics, shape and proportions, rather than prescribing a one-size-fits all treatment plan. Our surgical and non surgical team works closely together, so we are able to collaborate to offer patients the best of both modalities.

‘Less is more’ until surgery is necessary

I often see patients who have tried to postpone an inevitable surgical approach by over-filling the face or engaging in treatments that don’t have a long record of being safe or effective (eg permanent fillers and some threading products).

Sometimes, these products need to be removed before facelift surgery can be safely and effectively performed.

A 2011 study published in Plastic Reconstructive Surgery also found that younger patients have higher satisfaction rates and “remarkable maintenance of their youthful appearance”.

Likewise, Dr Jacono’s research showed that a 91% of surveyed patients were happy with their surgical results, and 52% wished they’d undergone surgery earlier. However, in presenting his study, Dr Jacono cautioned that determining the “right time” for facelift surgery is a multifactorial decision.

He also warned against resorting to facelift surgery before it is needed, and encouraged patients to consider non surgical maintenance options “up to the point at which surgery becomes the only effective option to address visible facial ageing – at whatever age that may occur”.

“The idea that every trace of every wrinkle must be eradicated the moment it appears is one that inevitably leads to patient frustration and loss of self-esteem.”

A patient’s motivations and objectives are also discussed and documented in detail before undergoing any surgery or treatment in our practices. This enables us to ascertain whether we are on the same page, can achieve their objectives and should proceed with treatment at this time, based on the likelihood of us being able to meet their expectations. The most important aspect of your preoperative journey will be to have this honest and transparent conversation with your clinician, which underlines the importance of finding a clinician that you trust and feel comfortable with. 

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To discuss facelift surgery with Dr Sharp – or non surgical options with our aesthetic nurses – please call 3202 4744.

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