Facelifts Subtract 9 Years From Preoperative Age, On Average

Emma Hitt, PhD

February 23, 2012

February 23, 2012 — People undergoing a facelift may look an average of about 9 years younger than their actual age after the procedure, according to a new study comparing before and after photographs of patients.

Nitin Chauhan, MD, from the Division of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and colleagues reported their findings in an article published online February 20 in the Archives of Facial and Plastic Surgery.

"Although patients generally look more refreshed with facial features that are better defined and lifted to the proper position," the authors write, "it is difficult to definitively assert that they actually look more youthful."

The current study sought "to quantify the degree of perceived age change after undergoing aesthetic facial surgical procedures, with this serving as an indicator of success in our role as facial plastic surgeons."

Investigators included total of 60 patients who were undergoing face and neck lift, blepharoplasty, and/or forehead lift in the analysis. Raters, all of whom were first-year medical students, were asked to rate the age of the participants based on pre- and postoperative photographs.

The patients were classified into 3 groups. Group 1 (22 patients) underwent only a face and neck lift. group 2 (17 patients) also underwent an upper and lower blepharoplasty, and group 3 (21 patients) each underwent a face and neck lift, an upper and lower blepharoplasty, and a forehead lift.

On average, the raters estimated patient ages based on the preoperative photographs to be 1.7 years younger than their chronological age. In contrast, after surgery, they were rated 8.9 years younger than their chronological age.

"The effect was less substantial for group 1 patients and was most dramatic for group 3 patients, who had undergone all 3 aging face surgical procedures," the researchers note.

"These quantitative results can be used to facilitate informed preoperative discussions and to provide patients with a better sense of outcomes, creating realistic expectations," they conclude.

"These findings validate the types of things that I have been discussing with patients for many years," said Mark P. Solomon, MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon from Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, who was not involved in the study. "The study represents an attempt to quantify facts that have been apparent to plastic surgeons through their practices," he told Medscape Medical News.

According to Dr. Solomon, the data support the benefit of surgery for facial aging and may be useful in helping patients understand what can be accomplished with facial rejuvenation procedures.

He added that, ideally, it would be interesting to know how these changes affect the aging process in a given patient. "In other words, whether the changes are stable or whether they age with the patient; these are issues that have been discussed but are difficult to quantify," he added.

One of the authors serves as a consultant for Allergan Canada. Dr. Solomon has disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

Arch Facial Plast Surg. Published online February 20, 2012. Full text