Neck Lift Surgery – Should You Have It?

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If you've had a facelift, or you just have a young-looking face, your skin probably appears taut, supple, and relatively line-free. From the chin down, however, it may be a different story.

For many people, the neck is the first area to show age. For people who have lost weight, an unfortunate side effect may be leftover, loose-hanging skin that has lost its elasticity. Whether it is band lines, excess skin, or fat, a neck lift can bring your neck back into shape.

What is a Neck Lift?

Neck-lift plastic surgery can be performed in a variety of ways, depending on the needs of the individual. Three possible neck-lift procedures include:

Typically, a neck-lift will include liposuction to remove fat. Cervicoplasty may be included to remove excess skin, and platysmaplasty to remove or tighten neck muscles: a process that gets rid of unwanted band lines. These procedures are described later in this article.

A neck-lift may also be part of a combination treatment plan, in conjunction with a forehead lift, facelift, or eyelid surgery. For a less invasive alternative, you may want to investigate the micro neck-lift.

The Right Candidate for Neck-lift

There is no ideal age for neck-lift surgery. Candidates may range from teenagers to octogenarians. People who suffer from certain diseases may be excluded from treatment. Talk to a qualified plastic surgeon about your goals and expectations, and to determine if you would be a good candidate. Your doctor will also review your medical history and the risks associated with the procedures to create a treatment plan that works best for you.

The Neck-lift Procedure

Neck-lifts are most often performed by a board-certified plastic surgeon. The location of the procedure may be the doctor's office, outpatient surgery center, or hospital. Since there may be more than one procedure performed during a neck-lift, your time in surgery may be one hour to several hours. The procedure may be performed under local anesthesia or general anesthesia, but usually does not involve an overnight stay.

The procedures involved in a neck-lift may be performed endoscopically. For an endoscopic neck-lift, an instrument visually guides the surgeon through the procedure. The advantages of an endoscopic procedure may include a smaller incision, no general anesthesia, reduced bruising, and faster recovery. You can talk about the endoscopic option with your doctor.

Liposuction

If your neck-lift requires liposuction to remove excess fat, the liposuction procedure is typically performed first. An incision will be made below the chin to remove the excess fat deposits. The fat deposits will be removed by inserting a small cannula (a hollow tube with an opening near its blunt end) beneath the skin and into the fatty tissue. The cannula is used to break up the fat, and then remove it from the neck area. A bandage will be applied to reduce swelling and discomfort. The doctor may also apply a bandage around your neck and head.

Liposuction Recovery

Your neck, jaw, and ears may be bruised and may continue to swell for up to ten days. The doctor may suggest using two pillows when you sleep. The physician will also recommend keeping your head and neck still and elevated at all times for up to ten days.

Oral pain medication and an antibiotic can be administered to reduce pain and reduce the risk of infection. Severe pain or abnormal symptoms should be reported to the doctor immediately. The doctor will set dietary guidelines and instruct you to limit physical activity. Exercise may be restricted for a short period of time.

The bandage around your neck and head typically can be removed the day after surgery. However, an elastic-type garment must be worn throughout the evening for at least two weeks. Stitches may be dissolvable, or will require removal up to seven days after the procedure. Final results will be evident in about three to six months.

You can get more general liposuction information from the Consumer Guide to Liposuction.

Cervicoplasty

The cervicoplasty procedure is performed to remove excess skin on the neck. An incision is made under your chin and behind the ears (or possibly in just one of these locations). The surgeon will then cut back and lift the skin, which will be secured with permanent sutures or a special type of permanent adhesive glue. A bandage and tape will be applied to the incision locations to reduce swelling and discomfort. An elastic bandage will be applied to your neck and head.

Cervicoplasty Recovery

Your neck, jaw, and ears may be bruised and continue to swell for up to ten days. Recovery for this procedure is the same as for liposuction recovery.

Platysmaplasty

The platysmaplasty procedure is performed to reduce the banded appearance of the neck. During the procedure, incisions will be made under the chin or behind the ears, or both. The surgeon will then insert a tiny instrument to either remove a portion of specific neck muscles or realign them, which will tighten the middle area of the neck. The doctor will permanently suture areas of the muscles in order to clasp them in the best position. A bandage and tape will be applied across the chin or behind the ears (or both) to reduce swelling and discomfort. An elastic bandage will be wrapped around the neck and head.

Platysmaplasty Recovery

Your neck, jaw, and ears may be bruised and continue to swell for up to ten days. Oral pain medications and an antibiotic can be administered to reduce pain and fight infection. Severe pain or abnormal symptoms should be reported to the doctor immediately. Recovery guidelines are the same as for liposuction recovery.

Complications and Risks of Neck-lift

Numbness of the skin occurs often for a few weeks after neck-lift surgery. In rare instances, this condition can be permanent. Other risks include excess scar tissue build up or bruising and puckering of the skin.

As with any plastic surgery, there is a risk of complications related to infection or reaction to anesthesia. You can avoid most complications by selecting the right plastic surgeon and following pre- and postoperative instructions. With proper precautions by the surgical team, complications are typically minimized or prevented.

Choosing a Surgeon

It's important to choose a board-certified plastic surgeon from the American Board of Plastic Surgery with extensive experience with neck-lifts. Board certification may not always guarantee the best results; however, board certification does require specific and rigorous surgical education and training that improves the odds for a successful outcome.

The type of certification is also important. There are more than 150 self-designated boards, but only a handful that are designated by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), such as the American Board of Plastic Surgery.

Here are some tips to consider when consulting a plastic surgeon:

  • Ask about credentials, type of certification, training, and the number of times neck-lifts have been performed in the cosmetic surgery practice.
  • View before-and-after photos of patients who received different types of neck-improvement procedures to help set reasonable expectations.
  • Bring a photo to help your doctor see the results you are looking for.
  • Inquire about the type of equipment to be used, where the procedure will be performed, and the extent of the procedure.
  • Discuss the possible impact that smoking and existing dental issues may have on your surgery.
  • Review the preoperative and postoperative instruction list provided by the doctor. These instructions may include:
    1) no eating or drinking after midnight
    2) a prescribed antibiotic for before and after the procedure
    3) ceasing certain medications

Neck-Lift Cost

Since a neck-lift may require more than one procedure, costs vary quite a bit. A neck-lift may be performed along with a facelift, forehead lift or eyelid surgery. Average neck-lift costs range from $5,000 to $8,000.

If the cost is too much to pay at once, ask your surgeon about monthly payments. These arrangements are fairly common. For financing options and tips, continue reading about Patient Financing.