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.