While we in the cosmetic industry are getting better and better at delivering the results that patients expect, I still hold fast that 60 to 70% of modern high-tech materials and devices in plastic surgery over promise and under deliver ! Considering that the future of plastic surgery will be less about actual surgery as more more and more technological advances are made in the lab (think genetic engineering, better fillers, better lasers, etc.), this 60-70% statistic is rather disappointing. What makes this all the more egregious is the fact that doctors are forced to pay an arm and a leg for such underperforming technologies (Ulthera ® Thermage®, etc.). In light of the fact you can get a state-of-the-art Tesla with all the bells and whistles for around $100,000, paying $150,000 or more for a machine that just delivers fuddy-duddy ultrasound technology through a wand to aid in liposuction is frankly outrageous. However, the medical tech companies can’t be solely blamed for this-they are basically governed by the FDA’s policies which, in turn, are a response to precedents extrapolated to an absurd degree by lawyers. Unfortunately, I have seen it all too many times – a new plastic surgery technology coming out amidst a flurry of media only to fade into relatively rapid obscurity. This is similar to a Billboard chart topper only to turn out to be a one-hit wonder! In my opinion the latest overhyped snakeoil is Kybella® from the big pharma conglomerate Allergan®, proud makers of Latisse®, Botox®, Voluma®, Juvéderm®, etc. I was glad to hear from some of my esteemed colleagues at the recent American Society of Plastic Surgery meeting in Los Angeles that their thoughts on Kybella ® echoed mine. Taking into account Kybella’s negative points, which include: 1. relative risk of damaging important facial nerves, 2. cost (though one treatment is less expensive than liposuction, more often than not multiple treatments are necessary and these, of course, add up), 3. associated pain, 4. longer recovery (which, ironically, is worse than surgical liposuction since remarkable swelling can occur after every injection session) and 5. inferior results to those obtained with aesthetically and skillfully performed liposuction …there is little to no advantage in utilizing Kybella® for my patients except perhaps for its superior multi-million dollar marketing campaign! Indeed, micro liposuction can provide unprecedented control in removing fat to treat a double chin while refining the jawline and addressing the jowls as well-all with less downtime and more economically so in the end. Case in point:
By trade-offs, I am not referring to complications or risks.
By trade-offs I am referring to subtle and sometimes significant alterations in your appearance that will be incurred by undergoing a certain plastic surgical procedure. It is the doctor’s responsibility to inform the patient of these trade-offs (including risks of complications) while it is the patient’s responsibility to make an informed decision to proceed if he or she feels that the benefits of the surgery will outweigh the risks and trade-offs.
Examples of such trade-offs are the scars in and around the ear that result from a facelift. Even though they may be near invisible, they are scars nonetheless. The majority of patients feel that benefits of the facelift outweighed any of the associated trade-offs. Similarly, patients who undergo an abdominoplasty (tummy tuck), mastopexy (breast lift) or brachioplasty (arm lift) should be fully aware that they will develop scars from those procedures. Though the majority will heal well with very acceptable scars, most of the time the scars will be visible to some degree.
Patients who undergo a rhinoplasty must understand that their nose will be numb, stiff and hard for up to 3 months or more while swelling can persist for 1 to 2 years. Numbness from a facelift or a browlift can last many months as well. Despite understanding these trade-offs, the vast majority of patients have no problem undergoing these procedures once they have decided to do so.
Over the years, I have found it curious that a small minority of patients undergoing lip reshaping surgery in the form of upper lip lifts and V-Y plasties had unrealistic expectations in terms of their healing and results. They were surprised even angry that they experienced numbness, stiffness and associated scarring. Sometimes a very subtle change in the nostril position occurred after the surgery. These trade-offs may arise even though the result of the upper lip lift is successful from the aesthetic standpoint-in other words, the net benefit in the sensual-youthful-beauty quotient for the face has been increased. However, a few may consider the lip lift a failure if they have experienced even a slight degree in any of these trade-offs.
Though these trade-offs can mostly be successfully reversed, a patient should not elect to undergo such a procedure if he or she will not accept that these can be normal aspects of the procedure. If one thinks about it, an upper lip lift will have its trade-offs in the same way other procedures would have their own yet it perhaps gets more attention than other anatomical features of the face because the lips are expected to not only look beautiful but also function as well.
And function they do, more than any other part of the face. Indeed, lips are used to express, emote, eat, kiss and speak-essentially they move millions of times a day! Because of these strong repetitive muscle forces around the nasal and oral region the plastic surgeon must create a strong upper lip lift that will resist these forces in order to achieve a result that is long-lasting, with minimal scarring and nasal distortion.
In fact, lip shaping procedures are the most challenging of all facial plastic surgeries, even rhinoplasties. Though the success of facelifts are measured in centimeters, brow lifts in increments of 2 to 4 mm and rhinoplasties in millimeters, lip reshaping surgery is measured in quarter-to-an-eighth of a millimeter! With those scales, one can almost consider this close to microsurgery.
In 2014, it would be a miracle to undergo an upper lip lift with an unequivocal guarantee of no scarring, nasal distortion, prolonged minor sensory changes and stiffness. If you are contemplating undergoing an upper lip lift but will not tolerate any of these tradeoffs, I suggest you avoid the procedure altogether and wait for that miracle to happen.
Lip lifts for 2014
Patients often asked me what are the differences between a skin-only lip lift and my muscle hemming technique. To put it simply, longevity, scarring and nasal distortion.
Skin Only Lip Lift
Until the late 90’s, the only lip lift I knew how to do was the skin only type. I would perform this by excising a certain amount of skin below the nasal base and sewing the lower edge of the excision to the upper edge which happens to be the skin of the nose. The only thing now supporting this entire weight of the upper lip (which happens to move millions of times a day, eating, kissing, expressing and speaking) is the freshly closed incision at the skin level. One can imagine that this provides little support for all the action occurring around the upper mouth area. Consequently, the longevity of the lip lift itself is lessened, the nostrils are more likely to be pulled downwards while the resulting scar is more likely to stretch and thicken.
Muscle Hemming Lip Lift
After many years of observing the long-term results of skin-only lip lifts, I developed the muscle hemming technique. By employing moderate principles of plastic surgery in which nip and tucks (such as a facelift) are improved by lifting and tightening the layers below the skin including muscle I have noted a significant benefit to my lip lifts in terms of scarring, longevity and less nasal distortion. However, the recovery period was notably increased. The muscle hemming technique involves placing slowly dissolvable sutures into the muscle layer below the skin and intern suturing that to the periosteum (lining) of the bone deep to the nose itself. The lip lift is thus a solid one without relying on skin closure to achieve its superior long-term results while lessening the chance of undesirable scarring and pulling around the nostrils.
Skin Flap Lip Lift
Which brings me to today. For the last 3 years I have been employing a skin-flap technique which provides all the benefits of the muscle hemming technique but with half the recovery. Suturing of the muscle is minimized in this technique but none of the longevity and superior scarring is sacrificed. The period of significant distortion and swelling has been halved from 2 weeks to less than 1. Additionally, the results are “softer” in appearance with minimal to no distortion of the nostril area.
Performing the modern lip lift with minimal-to-no-scarring and achieving a permanent beautiful result is challenging . It requires attention to minute detail and appreciation of how the oral region plays a central role in facial harmony. The vast majority of patients are thrilled with the subtle yet powerful results of this operation, but it has taken over 2 decades of unwavering dedication and imagination to get this far.
To view more upper lift results go to:http://www.drhaworth.com/procedures/upper-lower-lip-lifts/