What is a neck lift?

One of the telltale signs of aging is loss of definition of the neck and the appearance of the much-despised “turkey gobble” or the “double chin.” This happens to varying degrees to nearly everyone. The superficial muscles of the neck loosen over time and fat deposition increases in this region. The end result is a blunting of the angle between the chin and neck and loss of definition of the jawline. One of the most gratifying procedures for both men and women is to surgically restore this angle (called the cervicomental angle) which instantly and subtly re-creates a very youthful appearance. A neck lift can be performed alone or in combination with other facial procedures such as a facelift, brow lift, eyelid surgery, or chin or cheek augmentation. In some instances, liposuction of the neck can be combined as well to improve definition.

How is a neck lift performed?

Neck lift schematic in a woman.The overall goal of a neck lift is to tighten the central muscles of the neck (called platysmal bands) and resuspend the hammock of the neck, thereby re-creating the lost angle between the chin and neck. In order to accomplish this, an incision is placed along the border of the hair bearing scalp behind the ears. This incision is continuous with that of a facelift, if performed together. Excess skin is taken out using this incision and the edges of these superficial neck muscles are tightened simultaneously. A separate incision is sometimes placed underneath the chin in order to bring together the two vertical neck bands which are characteristic of the aging neck. Liposuction can be performed through these incisions as well without the need for additional counterincisions.

In some individuals, there may be a soft tissue prominence underneath the jaw which represents the drooping salivary glands. If present, these glands will need to be resuspended during this procedure in order to restore the natural jawline. Sometimes, these glands may be excised completely, if the drooping is severe.

Slight variations of this general technique can be performed as necessary on specific patients. Dr. Panossian will individualize the technique, if it is indicated and if it is consistent with patient goals.

What is the recovery?

Following a neck lift, a bulky supportive dressing or an elastic facial garment will be applied to minimize bruising and swelling. A small thin tube may be used to temporarily drain any fluid collections underneath the skin. This is typically removed the following day in the doctor’s office. Patients are then allowed to shower. Care is taken not to rub aggressively over the neck or the incisions for up to two weeks. Patients are advised to avoid strenuous activities including sports, exercise, and heavy lifting for a period of 4 to 6 weeks. Most patients typically return to work in 10 to 14 days. Makeup may be used as necessary to conceal any residual bruising.

What are the risks and complications?

The risks of a neck lift include bleeding, infection, difficulties with anesthesia, and unfavorable scarring. In addition, some patients may complain of a sensation of tightness in the neck that is temporary. It is rare to cause difficulties with swallowing or breathing following a neck lift. Also, in rare circumstances, there may be over- or undercorrection. It is imperative for patients to follow Dr. Panossian’s pre- and postoperative instructions in order to avoid complications. His staff is available at all times to answer questions.