Apr 8

Do thread-based brow lifts and face lifts really work?

Category: Uncategorized,

In the eternal quest for the fountain of youth more and more people are turning toward cosmetic enhancements that promise less recovery time, lower cost, decreased incidence of complications and instant results.

Among this new armamentarium of “minimally invasive or non- surgical” procedures comes the newly touted thread lift — also known as the feather lift, lunch time lift, Russian lift or suspension lift. The”thread lift” is promoted as an inexpensive, easy to do, “lunch time procedure” with little down time that subtly “refreshes” a sagging middle-aged face.

And the marketing has been amazing, to say the least. Like Thermage, Oprah Winfrey promoted the new barbed-suture face-lift as a “one-hour lunch-break lift” and a “cutting-edge procedure with no cutting edges.” On “Today” Matt Lauer described it as a “new alternative to a face-lift.” And “Good Morning America” called it “one of the hottest new beauty fixes.” The NY Times then reported “Mixed Results on a New Beauty Fix” just before The Washington Post posed the question “A Lift at Lunchtime?” More recently on another TV show, one cosmetic surgeon described how these sutures work to lift the brow to a better position and are the newest thing going today. The not so subtle message was that these threads can deliver the results of a traditional brow lift or face lift without any of the inherent consequences of the latter.

You may be thinking that this sounds too good to be true, right?

Do thread-based brow lifts and face lifts really work?

First a little background: Since September 2004, when the FDA cleared Contour Threads, one of two brands of barbed sutures, for use in the United States, at least 1,400 doctors have taken courses in how to use them, according to the manufacturer, Surgical Specialties Corporation. Reportedly, these doctors have now done more than 9,000 thread lifts. Perhaps thousands more have been done with Aptos brand sutures, which are made abroad.

The thread lift procedure uses a barbed suture to grasp the tissues and elevate them. Theoretically, because tissues are not being separated from each other and there is much less lifting of the skin, postoperative swelling and bruising are reduced.

Thread Lift

First the positives; non-surgical face lift procedures are generally:

  1. Less invasive- a few small incisions are made
  2. Do not require an extended recovery period- recovery takes a few days to a week in general, though it may take longer
  3. Less costly- typical costs are $3,000 to $7,000, depending on the number of sutures used
  4. No general anesthesia is required

Unfortunately, based on the results so far, the hype seems to overstate the real results. And so, the thread lift has come under fire from many facial plastic surgeons and general plastic surgeons, the kind of doctors who perform most real face-lifts. We believe that the thread lift has not yet been subjected to the kind of peer-reviewed clinical studies that are needed to demonstrate that it is safe and effective and to indicate which patients it is right for.

Do the results last?

One study found that the initial results with suspension sutures were relatively good, if not impressive. However, by 6 months, the corrections started to fade and by 12 months, between 80-100% of the initial corrections were lost. So, although some patients are told that the results generally last 3-5 years, in reality, it is impossible to know how long these corrections really last since the procedure is so new.

Are these procedures safe?

It is true that because these procedures are done under local anesthesia, rather than general anesthesia, the patient can expect less anesthesia risk. However, based on anecdotal reports, it appears at this time that these procedures are fraught with a host of potential complications including:

  1. Infection
  2. Potential Nerve Injury
  3. Threads that cause bunching of the skin
  4. Threads that break and recoil causing a visible knuckle of suture
  5. Threads that protrude through the skin
  6. Threads that can be seen or felt under the skin

Other patients have reported poor cosmetic results, swelling that took much longer than a week to subside and irregular or painful sensations in their face after the procedure.

Who should consider a threadlift and what results can be expected?

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, threadlifts are “for patients with moderate signs of aging who are looking for a little ‘lift’ without resorting to a facelift…”

Patients who want a subtle change in the mid face and lower face and who also need minimal downtime may be candidates for a threadlift, if they understand and are willing to accept all these possible complications. Patients who have sagging of the skin or deep folds in the tissues, who are really candidates for a face- lift, will likely be disappointed if they expect a big improvement.

Moreover, it should be noted that while these procedures take less time than a real face lift, “the view that a thread lift can be done during a lunch hour is not endorsed by the company…The downtime is not a lunch…It can be a day or a week, depending on the area that is being done.” And this statement comes from the mouths of the actual manufacturer.

A Final Note

Plastic Surgery periodically experiences periods when a new procedure is pushed hard by the media and some physicians and surgeons adopt it enthusiastically. Potential troubles or shortcomings show up later and the procedure falls into disfavor or is used much less frequently than at first.

At Profiles, we tell patients to wait a couple more years. We want to be sure that these “quick fix” procedures work, are safe and do what they claim to do. While they hold promise, we do not want our patients to be beta testers for new procedures that are all the rage.

Perhaps, with time, experience and adjustments the threadlift may have an impact much like liposuction, which also was initially shunned. However, for now at Profiles, we recommend patients undergo time proven procedures that we know are safe and effective.

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