Do you want to trick people into thinking you've lost a lot of weight? You might want to consider a neck lift. Oftentimes, people won't even notice that your neck muscles, fat or skin has been surgically altered if you have a neck lift.
Even though your neck can age before your face, Father Time is not always responsible for that appearance you'd like to undo. If you've lost a lot of weight, your neck may be taking its time to catch up. For others, it's a matter of genetics. Whatever the reason, people young and old undergo neck lift procedures all the time.
A neck lift is actually a set of procedures used to enhance the appearance of your neck:
- Cervicoplasty is the procedure used to remove excess skin
- Platysmaplasty removes or alters neck muscles
Your surgeon also can perform neck liposuction, which removes excess fat. In some cases, Botox injections may be the answer to your problems if you have fullness or "bands."
How a Neck Lift Is Done
Typically, the procedure will last two to three hours. Of course, if you are having a neck lift in conjunction with liposuction, facelift, brow lift, or other surgeries, the time will vary accordingly. Your exact procedure will depend on your desired results and your own personal circumstances. In order to undergo a neck lift, you must be in good general health, both physically and mentally.
What do you dislike about your neck? Be honest with yourself! You're putting a lot of time and effort into researching the surgery, so make sure you get the results you want. You also should write down your thoughts on what you'd like to correct and have that with you at the time of your pre-operative consultation.
Here are some of the most common concerns:
- Turkey wattle neck
- Excess fat
- Too much skin
Turkey Wattle; Weakened or Loose Neck Muscles
If you have weakened or loose neck muscles, this may cause the "turkey wattle" or appearance of neck "bands."
To correct this, your surgeon may recommend platysmaplasty surgery. The surgeon makes incisions under your chin and/or behind your ears to access the platysma (neck muscle) and manipulate it accordingly. Sometimes, that may even mean removing some muscle. Your surgeon may also use permanent sutures to hold the tissue in place.
There are new less invasive procedures, where your surgeon may be able to make smaller incisions and use an endoscope (small camera attached to a thin tube) to complete your surgery. Make sure you ask your surgeon for all your options during your consultation.
You and your surgeon will discuss what type of anesthesia to use, depending on your level of comfort. If you want to remain asleep during the procedure, you should request general anesthesia. Otherwise, your surgeon can use local anesthesia with sedation. It's up to you, however, to make that determination.
Instead of surgery or in addition to it, Botox injections can relax parts of the platysma that are responsible for the "band" appearance or look of fullness. The injections are completed on an outpatient basis and typically can be completed within 15 minutes.
Other popular cosmetic surgery
A facelift is a surgical method that removes excess facial skin to make the face appear younger. However, the aging face not only loses skin elasticity and develops looser skin, but also loses fat and muscle tone. Additional procedures that may be necessary to achieve the best results include: necklift, blepharoplasty (eyelid surgery), liposuction, autologous fat injection, removal of buccal (cheek) fat pad, forehead lift, browlift, chemical or laser peel, and malar (cheek), submalar or chin implants.
Excess fat in the neck area
During liposuction, your surgeon will make a small incision below the chin and remove the excess fat. If you are undergoing multiple procedures during your neck lift, it is very common for plastic surgeons to begin with liposuction.If this is the only procedure you'll need, you should plan to spend up to an hour undergoing the operation.
You will be able to determine this with your doctor during your pre-operative consultation. Your incisions will be stitched and bandaged. It's very important to follow your doctor's instructions on properly caring for the stitches and bandage in the days following surgery.
Too much skin in the neck area
Just like the platysmaplasty, your surgeon will make similar incisions for a cervicoplasty, trimming parts of the skin and lifting it into place.
It will be secured with tissue glue or stitches. The cervicoplasty can be completed in about two to four hours, depending on the complexity of your procedure. Again, your anesthesia will depend on your own personal comfort level.
Your surgeon will fit you with a compression bandage that you will have to wear for at least one week, unless instructed otherwise. It's important to follow his or her instructions to ensure proper recovery.
How should I prepare for a neck lift?
During your consultation, your surgeon will instruct you on what medications to avoid prior to your surgery. Certain medications and vitamins thin your blood and can cause increased bleeding.
If you are a smoker, you will need to quit at least two weeks before the surgery and two weeks after. You cannot just plan to cut down. You must not smoke for this time period to ensure proper healing.
Also, this is no time for a diet: make sure that you eat properly because this will help your body heal.
Make sure you wear loose, comfortable clothing on the day of surgery. You should especially plan to wear a button-down blouse or shirt that does not have to be pulled over your neck or head.
You should plan to take at least one week off from work to recover. However, your doctor can determine this based on your personal situation.
If you are having platysmaplasty, cervicoplasty, or a combination of any of the procedures we've discussed here, you should plan on having a home recovery area set up before you undergo surgery.
Your Home Recovery Area Should Include:
- Ice packs
- Gauze and towels
- Supply of comfortable, loose clothing (preferably button down shirts or blouses that do not have to be pulled over your neck and head)
- Petroleum jelly and antibacterial ointment for incision sites
- Telephone within reaching distance of where you'll be lying or sitting most of the time
- Supply of pillows which will allow you to keep your head in a comfortable position
- Someone who can stay with you at least the first 24 hours after surgery
What is the expected recovery from a neck lift?
Recovery takes time and it's important that you're patient with the process. Most people can return to work in 10-14 days.
If you participate in other sports or are physically active, you will have to wait at least three weeks, if not longer, to resume those activities. Don't rush! It's not worth it. You've put a lot of time and energy into making this happen, so make it worthwhile.
What are the complications and side effects of neck lift surgery?
You will have swelling and bruising that can last for several days. You may feel tightness or tingling, and different sensations including burning or pulling. You also will experience numbness. These are all very normal in the first few weeks following surgery and should not be cause for concern.
As with any surgery, you run the risk of infection. Please keep a watchful eye on your temperature. At the first sign of a fever, contact your doctor. If you have unusual discharge from the incision site, such as pus, contact your doctor immediately.
Although it's very rare, you could have an allergic reaction to the anesthesia. That's why it's very important to disclose any drug allergies to your doctor in a pre-operative consultation.
Does insurance cover this procedure?
Insurance carriers are all different, but one thing is the same: They typically agree NOT to cover elective, cosmetic surgery.
If your procedures will in any way correct a medical condition, it's important that you express this to your insurance carrier. Your surgeon can write a letter detailing your case.
Also, it's important to realize that cosmetic or plastic surgery can affect future coverage under certain insurance carriers. It can also affect your premiums. Make sure you ask your insurance carrier about how your future coverage or premiums will be affected should you undergo any of these procedures.
Reviewed by the doctors at The Cleveland Clinic Department of Plastic Surgery
Edited by Cynthia Haines , MD, April 2005.
Portions of this page © The Cleveland Clinic 2000-2003