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Aesthetic Plast Surg. 2002 May-Jun;26(3):172-80.

Face lift postoperative recovery.

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Córdoba, Argentina.


The purpose of this paper is to describe what I have studied and experienced, mainly regarding the control and prediction of the postoperative edema; how to achieve an agreeable recovery and give positive support to the patient, who in turn will receive pleasant sensations that neutralize the negative consequences of the surgery.After the skin is lifted, the drainage flow to the flaps is reversed abruptly toward the medial part of the face, where the flap bases are located. The thickness and extension of the flap determines the magnitude of the post-op edema, which is also augmented by medial surgeries (blepharo, rhino) whose trauma obstruct their natural drainage, increasing the congestion and edema. To study the lymphatic drainage, the day before an extended face lift (FL) a woman was infiltrated in the cheek skin with lynfofast (solution of tecmesio) and the absorption was observed by gamma camera. Seven days after the FL she underwent the same study; we observed no absorption by the lymphatic, concluding that a week after surgery, the lymphatic network was still damaged. To study the venous return during surgery, a fine catheter was introduced into the external jugular vein up to the mandibular border to measure the peripheral pressure. Following platysma plication the pressure rose, and again after a simple bandage, but with an elastic bandage it increased even further, diminishing considerably when it was released. Hence, platysma plication and the elastic bandage on the neck augment the venous congestion of the face. There are diseases that produce and can prolong the surgical edema: cardiac, hepatic, and renal insufficiencies, hypothyroidism, malnutrition, etc. According to these factors, the post-op edema can be predicted, the surgeon can choose between a wide dissection or a medial surgery, depending on the social or employment compromises the patient has, or the patient must accept a prolonged recovery if a complex surgery is necessary. Operative measures which prevent extensive edemas are: avoiding transection of the temporal pedicle, or to realizing platysma plication too tight by using strong aspirative drainage instead of elastic bandages. In the post-op, the manual lymphatic drainage is initiated on the third or fifth day, but must be done by a trained professional, in a method contrary to that specified in the books for non-operated individuals. An aesthetician washes the hair and applies decongestive cold tea on the face the second day, and on the fifth, moisturizes the skin and cosmetically conceals any signs of bruising. The psychological support provided by the staff keeps the patient calm and relaxed. Five years experience with this protocol has enabled us to minimize post-op pain. The edema can be predicted with certain consistency (in which surgery there will be more or less edema) and the proper technique can be selected, permitting the patient to choose the best moment for a FL while the surgeon can avoid intra and postoperative measures that increase the edema. After surgery, the patient receives the daily assistance of the staff, which rapidly and efficiently improves this condition. We can predict and control the post-op recovery and the patient feels fine, unlike the past when recovery was abandoned to its natural evolution. If the patient perceived an intensive, positive support on behalf of the entire staff that kept him or her content, then we have succeeded in doing an excellent marketing. This may encourage others to undergo aesthetic surgery, especially those who are convinced that after surgery they might have to endure considerable suffering.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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