Facelift: risks and complications


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Complications after a facelift are not very common and fortunately are rarely serious.

Nevertheless it is still important to be well-informed about risks and complications if you are considering a facial rejuvenating procedure or a facelift. 

From our experience and from scientific articles we know that specialists that perform a certain procedure very frequently have fewer complications. What's more we work with the highest safety and hygiene requirements.

Therefore if a complication arises, it is an exception. Nevertheless a facial rejuvenating procedure is still an operation that involves risks, which is something you need to take into account.

The main risks and complications involved in facelift surgery are sensory impairment, skin discolouration, necrosis, asymmetry, unsightly scar formation, damage to the facial nerve and pain and allergic reactions to the anaesthetic.

Despite the fact that the procedure is performed under sterile conditions, an infection may still occur. However the risk of infection is low, less than 1%. Sometimes the wound fails to heal properly, bleeding may occur or a hematoma may form.

If you would like to know more about the aforementioned complications, please read the 'frequently asked questions' section.

Usually, but unfortunately not always, the results of a complication can be corrected in one or several additional procedures.

Read more about the general risks of plastic surgery.

Frequently asked questions

  • What is a complication?
    Even when a procedure has been performed perfectly there may still be problems afterwards that need to be treated. A complication is not a medical error but an undesired consequence of the procedure. One example is an infection in the wound area, unsightly scar formation, hematoma formation etc.
  • How can I avoid any complications?
    To prevent any risk of infection it is important that you keep the wounds clean and dry until they heal completely. To reduce the risk of circulation problems we advise you to stop smoking before the operation. Keep it up for at least another 4 to 6 weeks.
  • What is post-operative bleeding or a hematoma?
    Post-operative bleeding happens occasionally, generally a few hours after the operation. It can be distressing but the surgeon can usually stop the bleeding quickly. An increased risk of post-operative bleeding may be a reason why you have to stay at the Wellness Kliniek overnight. A hematoma is a localised collection of blood that is accompanied by swelling. Hematomas are common after a facelift. A large swelling and bruising may be visible for several weeks. They disappear without any further intervention.
  • Swelling
    The skin and face are usually swollen after a facelift. Normally the swelling subsides within a week or two. Occasionally it takes a little longer to go down but eventually disappears by itself.
  • Infection
    The head and neck area has lots of blood vessels. This is why infections are rare. If an infection does occur this may lead to the wound not healing properly resulting in an unsightly scar. An infection is more common in patients that smoke a lot and patients that suffer a hematoma following the operation.
  • Damage to the facial nerve
    The nerves that enable movement of the facial muscles and the nerves that provide sensation may be damaged by swelling or by surgery. This can lead to a loss of function (such as a crooked mouth when laughing), a lack of sensation or chronic pain. These complications usually disappear automatically with a few weeks following the operation.
  • Necrosis
    Necrosis or areas of dying skin may occur after facial surgery. This complication is sometimes seen among smokers or patients that suffer from poor circulation in the skin due to their medication or illness.
  • Changes in the skin
    During the operation the skin is pulled slightly taut which may cause some changes in the quality of the skin. Small red blood vessels, which were already present before the operation may become slightly more visible. Pigmentation marks sometimes appear.
  • Less attractive scar
    The incisions are made in well-concealed spots. Unfortunately keloid scars sometimes form. If the scar in front of the ear thickens it becomes more noticeable. Luckily thickened scars are more common behind the ear because there is more tension on the edges of the wound there. Unsightly scars can usually be corrected a year after the original operation.

After the operation

If you experience any problems or concerns after your operation, please don't hesitate to contact us. Call us immediately if you experience any abnormal signs of healing such as:

  • Fever
  • Localised redness
  • If you feel generally unwell
  • If you have the slightest concern.

After the procedure you will be given our permanent medical emergency telephone number. We are there for you day and night. We are there to support you until you are fully recovered.

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All plastic surgeons and dentists are experts in their cosmetic field and are fully government registered in their medical specialty. Wellness Kliniek Belgium stands for safe surgery. The Wellness Kliniek has 4 operating rooms, recovery department, accommodation facility, 25 beds, 10 private rooms with bathroom.

Planning your medical trip has never been easier! For people who have to travel a considerable distance, the clinic offers a unique Next-Day-Surgery service: your consultation and operation on consecutive days.