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Face Lift

SwiftLift: Small Incisions, Big Result

Wanita, a 55-year-old Utah real estate saleswoman, noticed that people sometimes made assumptions based on just a quick glance.

"Several times, I was sitting with some of my younger girlfriends when a guy came along and asked if I was the mother of one of them."

Plastic Surgeons

After hearing that several times, Wanita (which is not her real name; she asked to be anonymous) thought it might be time to start considering some rejuvenation surgery to her face, jowls and neck. So she started looking at the Web sites of plastic surgeons in Utah, California and Arizona.

General Anesthesia

She came across a Utah surgeon who offered a facial procedure that does not require large incisions or lengthy periods of time away from work for healing.

"I have friends who have had extensive facial procedures, and the after-effects would be just too much for me," Wanita says. "I wanted minimally invasive surgery because I did not want to go under general anesthesia."

Facial Skin Care

Eventually, Wanita discovered in Ogden, Utah, Drake Vincent, M.D., D.M.D., one of three U.S. plastic surgeons who perform a quicker facial procedure known as SwiftLift. The operation is an hour-long procedure that tightens the skin and jowls of the lower face, along with the muscle and fat layers under the skin. All that is done through only a small incision in front of the ears. Designed for healthy men and women between the ages of 36 and 65, the SwiftLift rejuvenates aging facial skin from just below the eyes to the jowls.

SwiftLift Before and After Photos

A 51-year-old SwiftLift patient shows her pre-surgical appearance on the right. The red lines on that picture indicate where the SwiftLift incisions are made. The blue lines show where incisions are made for the traditional face lift. The left picture – taken three and one-half weeks after the procedure -- shows the patient’s new look. The red dashes show where the purse string suture is placed under the skin. (Photos, courtesy Dr. Vincent)

As a step between thread lifts and extensive face lifts, SwiftLift offers shorter surgical times and less swelling and bruising for the patient, along with a faster recovery. The "down time" after a SwiftLift is usually seven to 10 days. Camouflage makeup helps conceal slight bruising so that patients are comfortable being seen in public sooner.

Eyelid Surgery

The procedure received its name because the surgeon only needs about an hour to complete it. When healed, the scar in front of the ear looks like a natural crease in the skin. The eyebrow area and upper and lower eyelids are not affected by SwiftLift, although surgeons can perform those rejuvenations as extra procedures during the same operation.

Face Lift

Not too long ago, having a full facelift meant making an incision that started behind one ear, ran over the top of your skull and ended at the other ear. The surgeon then had plenty of room to work, but the process made recovery time longer and created more surgical complications such as infections. And, too often, surgeons merely grabbed skin and pulled it tighter to remove wrinkles, sag, folds and other signs of aging. The created an overly tight facelift often referred to as "windblown."

Plastic Surgery

Since then, plastic surgery has taken several leaps forward, with more patient-friendly techniques being introduced yearly. For one, surgeons no longer pull on the outermost layer of facial skin to make it as tight as a drumhead. Instead, they concentrate on moving deeper layers of muscle, fat and skin into a higher position. It's done by lifting about three layers of flesh and tissues free from bone, moving it all back and up toward the ears and tacking the flesh down. Usually, about one-quarter inch to an inch and one half of excess skin is trimmed away.

Natural Healing

Holding that flesh up is a loop of thread sutured into and onto the more stable structures on the face like the periosteum, the tough, thin covering that lies just over bone. The looping thread, known as a purse string suture, is anchored to the cheekbone. When the suture is pulled tight, the technique lifts and restores the more youthful look of the midface and jowl. Also at work is the body's natural healing process which helps lifted tissues permanently grow back onto bone.


"After about three months, the lifted tissues are held permanently in place by scar tissue," says Dr. Vincent. "The only visible scar on the patient's face is a small mark in front of the ears that looks like a natural skin crease. If the patient has heavy jowls, I might have to make another incision behind the ear in the hairline." For those heavily jowled patients, liposuction can be performed. The procedure also improves the much despised nasolabial fold; that thick crease of skin traveling from the corners of the nose to the corners of the mouth and typically associated with advancing age.

Afterwards, the patient wears a compression bandage for seven days.

Scar Tissue

Currently, one of the biggest complaints made by busy patients is the time that must be taken away from jobs, family life and other activities for healing. In virtually all cases, longer scar tissues means longer recovery. So taking three weeks for recovery and healing is just not feasible for most people in today's fast-paced society.

"Most SwiftLift patients are attracted to the procedure because a full face lift can keep them out of action for six to eight weeks," says Dr. Vincent.

Wanita says recovery took her away from work for about two weeks but, after healing, she "no longer gets the 'mother' remark." Instead, she receives many compliments on how soft her facial skin looks.

"Most people think I'm 38 to 45 years old which is more appropriate because, actually, I feel like I'm 25!" Wanita says.

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