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What Are Common Rhytidectomy Complications?

A rhytidectomy, more commonly known as a facelift, is a surgical procedure that can reduce visible signs of ageing and enhance self-esteem. However, like any surgical intervention, it's not without its risks. In cases where something does go wrong with your facelift surgery, you should be equipped with the knowledge of what to do.

The following guide outlines the common complications that can arise from a rhytidectomy and guides you on when it might be appropriate to seek legal assistance.

What is a rhytidectomy?

A rhytidectomy is a cosmetic surgical procedure that aims to give your face a more youthful appearance. It involves the removal of excess facial skin and the tightening of underlying tissues. Many skilled plastic surgeons offer facelift surgery, but it's important to understand that even with expert hands, complications can arise.

Common complications

While rhytidectomy procedures have been refined over the years to minimise risks, complications can and do occur. It is essential to be aware of these potential issues, as some may require immediate intervention or could lead to long-term consequences. Here, we take a look at some of the most common complications that you should be aware of.


Hematoma refers to the collection of blood outside blood vessels, essentially a pooling of blood beneath the skin. Symptoms to watch out for include swelling, intense pain and skin discolouration. In minor cases, the body may reabsorb the pooled blood over time. However, larger hematomas often require surgical drainage. If left untreated, it could lead to infection or other complications.

Nerve injury

Nerves control muscle movement and sensation in the face. During a rhytidectomy, these nerves can be injured, leading to numbness, tingling or paralysis of the affected muscles. Minor nerve injuries often recover within a few weeks. However, more severe nerve injuries can have a long-lasting impact, affecting your ability to smile, frown or perform other facial expressions.


Scarring is an expected part of any surgical procedure. However, some individuals may experience excessive or hypertrophic scarring, which can be unsightly and emotionally distressing. Treatment for problematic scarring includes silicone gel sheets, steroid injections or further surgical revision. However, some scars may be permanent, affecting not only your appearance but also your emotional wellbeing.


An infection is always a risk in any surgical procedure, including rhytidectomy. Signs of an infection include redness, increased pain and discharge from the surgical site. You may also suffer from a fever. A minor infection can typically be treated with antibiotics. However, a severe infection could require additional corrective surgeries and may have an impact on the final cosmetic result.

Skin loss

Skin loss is a rare but severe complication where the blood supply to the facial skin is compromised, often leading to tissue death.

Immediate intervention is critical and may include additional surgical procedures to remove the dead tissue and promote healing. This complication could have a significant impact on your overall appearance and may require reconstructive surgery.


Facial asymmetry post-surgery is another concern where the two sides of the face do not match in size, shape, or level of lifting.

Minor asymmetry might resolve on its own as swelling subsides, but significant asymmetry may require corrective surgery. This can be emotionally distressing and also costly, as it essentially means undergoing another procedure.

Types of rhytidectomy

There are several kinds of facelifts, each with its own set of potential complications:

Mini facelift

A mini facelift is a less invasive option that primarily focuses on the lower third of the face. It aims to correct early signs of ageing like minor sagging around the cheeks, jawline and neck. The recovery period is generally shorter than other facelift methods. However, the results are also less dramatic compared to a standard facelift.

Due to its less invasive nature, the risks are often lower but can still include infection, minor scarring and facial nerve damage.

Standard facelift

The standard facelift, also known as a traditional or full facelift, offers a more comprehensive rejuvenation than its mini counterpart, targeting the face, jawline, and often extending into the neck. The procedure involves extensive incisions and a longer recovery period but provides a more noticeable and lasting effect.

Given the more invasive nature of this procedure, the risks are higher. Complications can include hematoma, facial nerve injury and more noticeable scarring.

Neck lift

A neck lift specifically targets sagging skin, muscle laxity and fat deposits in the neck region. The procedure can be done independently or in conjunction with a standard facelift for a more harmonious rejuvenation. A neck lift can address issues like 'turkey neck' and prominent jowls.

The risks associated with a neck lift are somewhat similar to those of a standard facelift and can include infection, scarring and facial nerve injuries. As the neck is a sensitive area, care must be taken to avoid complications like damage to the vocal cords.

Mid-face lift

This procedure focuses on the area from the corners of your eyes to the sides of your mouth, primarily lifting the cheeks and reducing nasolabial folds. It's often performed using endoscopic techniques.

Bruising and swelling are common but generally subside relatively quickly. As with any other facelift surgery, there's a risk of nerve damage, which could affect facial expressions and sensations.

Each of these rhytidectomy types has its own set of potential benefits and risks, which should be thoroughly discussed with a qualified surgeon prior to undergoing any procedure. Understanding these variants allows you to be better prepared for the outcomes and possible complications that may arise.

When to seek legal assistance

If you experience complications following a rhytidectomy, your first step should be to seek a proper diagnosis and treatment. However, if you suspect that your issues have been caused by errors made by your surgeon - known as clinical negligence - it might be time to seek legal advice. Understanding when and why to take this step is a vital part of obtaining any compensation you may be entitled to.

Examples of clinical negligence include:

  1. Inexperienced surgical techniques: if your surgeon failed to perform the operation to the standard expected of a qualified medical professional, this could be grounds for a claim.

  2. Poor post-operative care: the medical care you receive after your surgery is as important as the procedure itself. Negligence in post-operative care, like insufficient monitoring or failure to treat complications timely, can also be considered clinical negligence.

  3. Misdiagnosis of complications: if complications like infection or hematoma are not promptly diagnosed and treated, the delay can exacerbate the issue, possibly leading to more severe long-term consequences.

  4. Inadequate consent: surgeons are required to inform patients about the risks associated with the procedure. If you were not adequately informed, you might have grounds for a claim based on lack of informed consent.

Cosmetic Surgery Solicitors specialises in cosmetic surgery clinical negligence claims, making us experts in this nuanced area of the law. We can help you by assessing your case, collecting evidence to support your claim, communicating with the other party and simplifying complex legal procedures.

Compensation can cover not just your medical costs, but also emotional distress and lost earnings, depending on the severity of your case.

Contact us

While a rhytidectomy can be a transformative experience, it's essential to approach it with full awareness of the potential risks and complications. Always consult with qualified professionals and don't hesitate to take legal steps if you encounter complications that you believe are the result of clinical negligence.

For more information on how our expert facelift surgery solicitors can help you, call Cosmetic Surgery Solicitors today on 0800 189 7717, or fill out an online contact form to arrange a time for us to call you back.

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Mike Saul


Michael Saul is a partner at Cosmetic Surgery Solicitors, where he brings his extensive specialist legal expertise and passion for helping people to the forefront of his work. With a proven track record of success in cosmetic surgery negligence cases, Michael has dedicated his career to providing clients with the highest level of representation and achieving favourable outcomes.

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