As the aging process begins, the skin starts to thin and it loses its ability to maintain its firmness. Changes in underlying support structures appear as sagging , deep creases, folds and wrinkles. Until recently, the only way to reduce those problems and tighten the skin was a facelift, which must be done in a hospital or surgical center under general anesthesia and can have a long recovery period. But now there is a technique that can provide many of the same advantages of a facelift without the downtime and risks.
Speaking today at ACADEMY '06, the American Academy of Dermatology's (Academy) summer scientific meeting, dermatologist Victor A. Neel, M.D., F.A.A.D., director of dermatological surgery, at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Mass., discussed the effectiveness of the thread lift procedure.
"Thread lifts can be an alternative to a facelift for patients who want lifting and tightening of their cheeks, midface, jowls or eyebrows, but don't want to undergo major surgery," Dr. Neel said. "Patients find that it gives a more natural result and is very easy to tolerate because it is done with local anesthetic in the doctor's office."
The thread lift procedure takes about an hour to perform. The dermatologist places a special thread below the skin to lift the sagging skin and tissue and anchor it underneath the hairline to give the patient a more youthful look. Afterwards, patients are advised to avoid making exaggerated facial expressions and to be careful when sleeping to minimize the risk of pulling on the threads for about a week. Most patients can resume normal activities within a couple of days.
As with any surgical procedure, there can be side effects. They include bruising and swelling that can last for a week and some patients have reported being able to see or feel the sutures under their skin. These concerns can usually be resolved.
"In general, a thread lift is a safe, conservative and effective procedure," Dr. Neel said. "By gently shifting sagging skin upward, the physician can use this technique to produce a relaxed, fresh appearance while preserving and enhancing the natural contours of the face."
Dr. Neel cautions that the thread lift is not permanent, lasting approximately two to three years. However, because it is relatively simple and cost-effective, it can be repeated as necessary with few side effects.
"While this is a great option for some patients, it's not something that will work for everyone with sagging skin," Dr. Neel said. "Patients who are interested in thread lifts should discuss their expectations carefully with their dermatologist."