The Howard Lift: A Modern Facelift

Self-esteem, or more importantly, the lack of self-esteem is an expected occurrence in a society that pays a high premium on the physical attributes of the body and face. The premium that is placed on good looks is not debatable, it has been a well -documented fact for almost a century. The proof is found in the amount of money that is spent every year on cosmetics, weight loss schemes, hair care products, scar and wrinkle creams and the myriad of other commodities used to maintain an attractive, healthy body and a youthful face and neck.

The premium society exacts on us can affordably be paid with a healthy exercise program, a reasonable diet, a good skincare program including a sunblock, staying away from nicotine and in some cases, appropriately timed and well thought out plastic surgery.

The science behind the latest lotions and potions to attack facial wrinkles is a multi-billion-dollar industry. These products, all of which work if actually used on the face and not allowed to languish on the bathroom counter. They are a good investment realizing the limitations of what can be achieved in an aging face only using products applied to the skin. Improved texture-yes, fewer discolorations-yes, fewer fine wrinkles-yes, improved coloring-somewhat, improved stretch marks- not likely and tighter, lifted face and neck skin-never.

facelift

Dr. Paul Howard is board certified in plastic surgery and is one of the top facelift surgeons of the South. Dr. Howard also offers mini face lift, neck lift, eyelid surgery, rhinoplasty, brow lift, cheek augmentation, ear pinning surgery, and fat grafting to the face. Schedule your facelift consultation with Dr. Howard today 205-871-3361.

Once the effects of gravity are in full effect, it is the rare person who can reverse the facial sagging without a surgical procedure. The timing of that face lift surgery, or mini facelift,  will determine how much surgery is necessary; the earlier in the aging process, the less surgery.

As a general rule, when the lower eyelid dark crescents reveal themselves, the nasolabial folds deepen, marionette lines form between the corner of the mouth and the chin-jaw area and the once tight jawline is interrupted by “bubbles” of fat that represent cheek fat and skin sliding down toward the neck, then anti-gravity, lifting surgical procedures are necessary.

Facelifts, especially among baby boomers, have long been thought to be prohibitively expensive and thus available only to the few. Thus, plastic surgery is summarily dismissed as family and personal issues take precedence. Self-sacrifice becomes a way of life and self-esteem suffers, becoming very difficult to retrieve even with a successful diet and a perfect skincare regiment. The entire mass of skin and fat tissue from the lower lids to the jawline must be lifted, separately, which is the basis of the mid-face portion of the modern facelift.

What is a modern facelift? Modern is a deceptively simple word with many meanings. A modern facelift is new, fresh and up-to-date as well as novel and innovative. To create a modern facelift sounds complicated but is deceptively simple for the plastic surgeon with an open mind and open ears. Two of my mentors, Dr. John Kirklin and Dr. Ralph Millard, coming from different backgrounds and directions (cardiac surgery and plastic surgery), both taught that if you listen carefully, the patient will tell you what’s wrong and what they want from you as a doctor.

The modern facelift evolved from listening to patients with a completely open mind and blessed with a full toolbox of plastic surgery principles from which to choose and a creative disposition finding no limits to what is possible.

A background in chemistry and anatomy has helped base the modern facelift securely in the realm of medical science; just as Dr. Kirklin would have demanded and Dr. Millard has written in Principalization of Plastic Surgery.

The first facelift patient requests for something new in facelift surgery was the most challenging and time consuming but had not been addressed in the plastic surgery literature in recent history. Not a single person wanted to undergo general anesthesia to have a facelift, regardless of who administered the anesthesia. Was it perceived danger, expense or the fact that general anesthesia requires a large volume of strong drugs that make people sick? From the patient’s viewpoint, it was all the above. From the plastic surgeon’s viewpoint, it is the wild fluctuations in blood pressure these strong drugs cause as well as bruising, swelling, hematomas and a longer recovery that occur with all general anesthetic protocols.

My unique use of three different and pharmacologically distinct local anesthetics was devised and in use today. The combination of local anesthetics burn less when injected, work quicker to make the face and neck numb and last longer reducing postoperative pain- all desirable traits. Each of the local anesthetics is augmented by epinephrine which helps to keep blood loss to a minimum.

Oral sedation was chosen for the smoothness of onset, the slower metabolism of the drugs and the minimal effect on blood pressure greatly reducing the risk of hematoma. The oral sedation can be adjusted as necessary during the procedure per the tolerances of the individual patient and the amount of sedation desired.

Patients requested for the modern operation to offer an equivalent result to other facelifts done under general anesthesia with incisions as short as possible. Initially, the short incisions sounded like a deal breaker but upon further consideration there are certain maneuvers concerned with the order and type of suturing that can shorten the incisions behind the ear. It was discovered that certain incisions in front of the ear served no purpose in making the results better and were dropped. While not exactly a “short scar” facelift, the modern facelift is definitely a “shorter scar” version of our previous facelifts.

All patients requested less swelling with less downtime and a quicker return to work and normal activities. Everyone wants this and all plastic surgeons try to accommodate this request with very little success unless they adulterate or simplify the facelift procedure to be less invasive compromising the result. We realized almost immediately that the swelling was much less about the operation as performed but was mostly a product of general anesthesia, regardless of the agents used to put the patient asleep or anesthesia provider-nurse or doctor. Changing from general to local anesthesia reduced our postoperative swelling, all other factors being equal, by at least 75%.

Even with improvements in swelling and down time with local anesthesia, more was needed as this was one of the more important requests. It was almost as important as cost. It was clear that the more so-called dead space that existed during the dissection of the face, the more hematomas, both large and small, and resultant swelling and bruising occurred. After the multi-vector, tightening of the SMAS, we began to use what is called progressive- tension- suturing which allows for maximal skin tightening with minimal dead space, minimal bruising and minimal tension on the skin closure helping reduce unwanted scarring and downtime.

This suturing technique may sound too good to be true but it is well known, but not for facelift surgery. The technique also allowed us to decrease the size of drains and the length of time they are necessary. Our drains are hand-made from 21-gauge butterfly needles and are removed in less than twenty-four hours as the dead space to be drained is minimal. These “micro-drains” require only hemovac tubes as the suction and drainage receptacle usually draining no more than a teaspoon of blood per side.

It is common for patients to inquire about facial plastic surgery and its effect on the mouth and peri-oral area. The answer is that the facelift, by itself, does not help rejuvenate the mouth. This was about the time fat grafting and Dr. Sidney Coleman burst on the plastic surgery scene. Using his new fat processing techniques, we were able to use a person’s own abdominal fat (or any fat for that matter) and inject the fat into the wrinkles and areas around the lips to rejuvenate, thinner, aging lips –permanently.

Although not a specific patient request, adding contour to the effacement (flattening) caused by tightening and elevation of the cheeks was a constant struggle. Fat injections in the cheek area answered a lot of plastic surgeon’s prayers. We now could offer rejuvenation in a permanent fashion to the cheeks, lips, peri-oral area, nasolabial folds and marionette lines with fat injections. Unlike many other modalities, fat injections can be revised easily and are considered permanent. Most patients request more fat rather than less.

The lower eyelids and their contribution to the mid-face aging process was all that was left to tackle even though it rarely was a request except by the most discerning of patients. The lowering of the thin eyelid skin from the effects of gravity onto the upper cheek with its intendant dark crescent circles and tear trough deformity could not be left unaddressed. This required lower eyelid surgery (blepharoplasty), cheek-lid blending, fat manipulation and sometimes fat grafting in the tear trough. This is most effective when done simultaneously with the modern facelift.

Today, our recommended surgical procedures, when indicated, for facial rejuvenation all fall under the rubric The Modern Facelift:

 Short scar facelift incisions with multivector SMAS plication, intraoperative open neck liposuction with jawline refinement, progressive tension suturing, micro-drains, fat injections to the cheeks, peri-oral, nasolabial folds, marionette lines, tear troughs and lower blepharoplasty with fat manipulation, septal closure, cheek-lid blending and temporary lower lid suture tightening. Anesthesia is multi-agent local anesthesia with oral sedation augmented with IM Toradol and clonidine to blunt the systemic effects of epinephrine. The price is under $10,000 all inclusive.

Realizing our increased life expectancy, more people question how long the modern facelift will last. This is what Dr. Millard called a crystal ball question. He had a crystal ball on his desk that he referred to the patients accentuating the complexity of predicting the unknown. He would then explain that the answer depended on you, the patient, more than the surgery performed. He also would explain that aging is a continuous, life long process and any further surgical procedure may depend on the patient’s tolerance for imperfection rather than an identifiable time frame.

When pressed he would usually say five years which seemed to please most people as a reasonable number. I tend to offer three years since my tolerance for imperfection is less than most and we have developed a number of inexpensive “tuck-up” procedures that address the aging issues that tend to re-occur more quickly than other aspects of normal aging regardless of the type and extent of the plastic surgery performed.

All requests by patients for further surgical refinements are encouraged will be considered so that the modern facelift remains “modern.” The last provision of the modern facelift is to continue listening to patients and follow their lead to avoid, at all costs, the “rut of routine.”

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First Facelift

The term “first facelift” is showing up more and more frequently on Google searches these days. Although what the term means is intuitive, it is not a medical term that plastic surgeons frequently use. Medically speaking, the proper term is “primary facelift” but you can’t argue with a Google search.

Not particularly in tune with the “mind” of the internet, my assumption is that a first facelift is considered intrinsically different than secondary (second) or tertiary (third) facelifts. While there is some truth to the fact that first facelifts are performed differently than the others, there is no truth to the thought that a plastic surgeon can be an expert at firsts and not seconds or thirds. Although I am unaware of any statistics to the effect that at least half of the patients who have a first facelift before the age of 55, will also have at least a second as well as any number of touch-up procedures.

The importance of first facelifts is that any plastic surgical procedure including facelifts, eyelid surgery, rhinoplasty as well as cleft lip and palate achieve the best results the first time they are done.

Thus, the term first facelift. A good first facelift can lead to an even better second and even third. I truly was not aware that “first facelifts” were something people look for, or Google for, but I learn something about Google every day. With that said, I’m probably the best first face lifter around these parts.

Read more about top facelift surgeon Dr. Paul Howard in Birmingham, Alabama.

Advances in Facial Rejuvenation – How They Occur by Paul S. Howard, MD

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Plastic Surgeon Birmingham Alabama

“Doc, how can you make me look better, fresher, and maybe even a little younger looking?”

The answer to this question depends on many variables, but actually is easy for each individual surgeon to answer.  In fact, all surgical advances begin with a patient asking a doctor his opinion on a problem that is bothersome to the patient.  In the early 1900’s, the question may have been, “Doc, can you get rid of this unsightly hump on my nose?”  Maybe it was a teenager who wondered if her protruding “Dumbo ears” could be set back.  In the 60’s it might have been, “Doc, what can you do for these fat deposits on my thighs?”  Each of these questions was first met with skepticism by the surgeon followed by a moment of reflection and ending with the promise to get back to the patient after having a chance to think about it.  These accumulated “moments of reflection” are the substance of hundreds of manuscripts and then textbooks describing all of the innovations that have become the essence of plastic surgery as we know it today.

Recently, the question that continues to arise refers to looking more youthful, but is tainted by the attempt of many surgeons and non-surgeons to answer this question with a multitude of poorly conceived procedures, potions, lotions, and quick fixes that frequently fail to provide the answer to the question.  Photos that are presented fail to show youthfulness and frequently are not honest and believable.

The part of this anti-aging scenario that surgeons have come closer to accomplishing is the anti-gravity part where the desire for a procedure that lifts drooping facial tissue, especially the cheeks, forehead and neck, is accomplished with minimal incisions, safe anesthetic techniques and a rapid recovery time to the resumption of normal activities.  These accomplishments in facelift surgery are actually recent because advancements only happen when our patients ask for them.  There came a time when massive swelling and bruising, general anesthetic and a month recovery was not good enough and patients asked for more (or less).  It became clear that simply tightening skin to elevate facial fat and remove wrinkles was a simplistic approach to facial rejuvenation.  Although lifting and tightening worked to a certain degree, it did little or nothing to address that facial deflation by the loss of fat is an integral component of the aging process.  The use of fat transplantation, as is has now been perfected, has provided a therapeutic answer to deflation while fulfilling basic plastic surgical principles as described by Ralph Millard, MD.  In a nutshell, fat transfer is the result of identifying a problem, replacing what is lost with tissue in-kind, all the while improving the donor site via liposuction – Dr. Millard would love it!

This is the magical point in the scenario where luck comes into play as it applies to the “law of unintended consequences.”  The smartest of our brethren saw it almost immediately, but the rest of us took a while to see that which was right in front of us.  Our fat grafts carried with them a myriad of growth factors, cytokines, and unknown chemicals that helped the grafts “take,” but also exerted their influence on the overlying skin; the last aspect of the aging face addressed surgically.  By the simplest of methods – observation – it was noticed that the skin was visibly improved by the fat grafts; it had more collagen, more elasticity, improved texture, and an improvement in the fine lines and wrinkles.  As our knowledge evolved it became clear that these secondary consequences were the result of the stem cells that we now know to exist within the fat grafts.  The next small step was to isolate the adipose-derived stem cells from the fat and reintroduce the stem cells to improve the “take” of the fat and add improvement to the skin.  The addition of other known growth factors found in platelets as PRP boosted the rejuvenation ability of fat grafts even more.  I think it has also become quite clear that depositing these rejuvenating aspects with an appropriate scaffold (fat) beneath the skin improves the results drastically from the awkward attempts to simply rub these against on the skin’s surface.  It follows that the best we can do from the surface is to accelerate the turnover of the skin cells and remove as many of the dead cells as possible; hoping to unveil the dermal and sub-dermal improvements obtained from our stem cell assisted lipo-transfer protocol.

What I have described is the way plastic surgical advances happen.  Doctors and patients have been dancing this question and answer Waltz for over a hundred years so it should be of no surprise that many of the questions were asked a hundred years ago, but the answers have only recently shown themselves to those who continue to look for them.

Call today for your consultation! 205-877-PAUL

Read more about Dr. Paul Howard and his minimal incision face lift.

What the Hell is a Consultationist?

I, and many other who enjoy the English language, have been wondering which new words would be added to the lexicon of America.  These new words, or neologisms, are usually chosen by a group of exudate linguists to be included according to the extent of pervasiveness of their usage.  This begs an answer to today’s question: what the hell is a consultationist?

Upon checking Webster’s and Harper Collins dictionaries, no reference is made for the noun consultationist.  The closest reference is for consultation which we all know means an appointment or meeting to seek professional advice especially from doctors or lawyers.  It is through this prism that the term consultationist has come into my practice universe and the lexicon of plastic surgery.  Apparently in certain plastic surgery mass-marketing schemes, the number of patients seeking information is much greater than the doctors available to provide information thus leading to a new paradigm for plastic surgery practice by placing the here-to-fore unknown consultationist into the complex surgical information loop.  Naturally, not every plastic surgeon answers every contact for surgical information, but we all provide detailed information to our office staff who field those questions from the public.  The flow of accurate information through surgical surrogates called consultationists to the patient seems fraught with uncertainty proportional to the number of individual surgeons responsible for the information provided by surrogates.  The information provided, by necessity, must be wholly generic in nature as no one but the plastic surgeon can provide the necessary depth of knowledge and experience to provide anything approaching a real consultation.  These new plastic surgery mass-marketing schemes, in addition to spending millions of dollars on TV, radio, print, and internet, have actually added a layer of advertising bureaucracy as the information requests are funneled through a new layer of marketing specialists called consultationists.  These new patient calls have become “sales leads” rather than actual consultations.

This new marketing centered paradigm created a number of questions all of which surround the activities of the newly minted consultationist.  For instance, who are these people, how are they reimbursed, what is their background and training, and who decides what they say and who do they report to: the physicians, marketing director, or corporate management, or all of the above?  Is the protection and dissimulation of the brand primary or does accurate surgical information take precedence?  Regardless of the answers to these questions, the marketing consultationist has added an entirely new level of bureaucracy that can only be financially justified if information requests turn into actual doctor consultations.

Clearly it serves no purpose for any prospective patient to be denied a real consultation so the information flow through consultationists carries no more weight than any well-crafted patient directed web site.  The web site will certainly answer the single most important question at any consultation: who is your doctor?

It seems this one single question which would seemingly be the easiest to answer during any real consultation is usually the hardest question for a consultationist to answer generally depending on how many doctors are the recipients of this marketing service or sales lead.

I’m not sure I have been able to actually answer my initial question: What the hell is a consultationist?  My best research tells me a consultationist is but a cog in the marketing paradigm for certain large companies that endeavor to sell some kind of trademarked surgical procedure in some generic fashion.   The challenge is to maximize the marketing of the procedure, even if the procedure is not proprietary or in any way original.

The focus of the expert marketing must maximize the procedure and minimize the surgeon because each surgeon is an individual, but the procedure is universal and much more available as a marketing center piece.  This type of marketing plan when well executed can be enormously effective unless the “generic” surgeon pool is depleted or becomes technically antiquated and changes do not keep apace the market for facial rejuvenation.  Many of the predictable corporate problems are a result of the realities of size and success.  Time will be the arbiter regarding consultationists.  In the meantime, most of us plastic surgeons with integrity will try to muddle on without them.

Read more about top face lift surgeon Dr. Paul Howard and his minimal incision, quick recovery facelift.

Anesthesia for Facial Plastic Surgery

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Schedule your facelift consultation with Dr. Howard by calling 205-871-3361

There is a movement afoot to try to legislate safety in plastic surgery by controlling what we do rather than taking the more difficult route of controlling the credentials and training of practitioners.  State governments must find it less offensive to certain constituencies to legislate what we do and how we do it rather than more directly addressing the office surgical setting by requiring each and every practitioner to have a minimal amount of core training in the procedures legislators deem unsafe.  When non-professionals try to address concerns on medical safety it always appears that some group of doctors may be affected and their arguments always seem to be based on possible financial restraints or financial hardships that fully trained and credentialed doctors may not suffer.  The implications are that all doctors, regardless of training, are essentially equal.  No such assumptions are proffered for neurosurgeons or cardiac surgeons.  There is no legislation attempting to equalize specialty surgeons by defining what we do to make the entire group safer.  No one has proposed the idea that cardiologists, with little or no surgeon training, should be allowed to do open heart surgery as long as they operate in a safe manner and do the operations in approved facilities.  It would seem safer to address the training and credentials of those performing open heart surgery rather than restricting cardiologists to “simple” open heart cases.  This is much like restricting non-plastic surgeons to “simple” or low volume liposuction searching for a safety standard by “dumbing down” the operation and its possible complications.

In another way, many surgeons and non-surgeon administrators have convinced people that surgery is always safer when performed under general anesthesia with an anesthesiologist in attendance.  The fact is that almost all facial plastic surgical procedures done on adults for cosmetic reasons are safer when performed without general anesthesia, and its riskier counterparts, mask anesthesia and monitored anesthetic care.  The latter two are basically general anesthesia without the benefit of a secure airway and in facial cases, a difficulty in administering oxygen as needed.  It’s easy to declare that all patients need the most sophisticated and complex care in all circumstances with the assumption being that this is the safest way to proceed.  One aspect of plastic surgical complications that seems to be consistently overlooked is the general anesthetic contribution to all complications.  The fact that general anesthesia is related to complications is found in the surgical maxim that complication rates increase rather drastically after 2 hours under general anesthesia.  I don’t believe that operations longer than 2 hours are inherently more dangerous.  Many surgeons think that their meticulous technique, while sometimes slow, gives better results even though they may require hours longer under general anesthesia.  As a general rule, those surgeons who expedite the operation to decrease operative time are the safest.  The only way to further increase safety is to take the general anesthetic out of the picture.  Interestingly, using local anesthetics and regional blocks requires an entirely new skill set and, most importantly, it requires patience.  Adding sedation in the form of oral medication helps to make the experience more comfortable, but adds very little to the complication profile as these are the very same medications we use in our post-operative outpatient patients.  We have found that the intravenous use of medications such as versed and morphine creates large increases of medications with a short half-life and is more likely to cause nausea and vomiting.  Nausea is a much less common problem with oral medication especially if Phenergan or Zofran are used with the pre-operative oral medications.

In the past, the major complaint with local anesthesia with or without oral sedation is that it can burn when injected.  There are a number of techniques that surgeons can utilize to make the injections much less painful.  Almost all of these techniques require only a bit of patience from the plastic surgeon.  The most commonly used anesthetics are Xylocaine and Marcaine.  Due to the acidic pH of Xylocaine, most surgeons have for years added bicarbonate to decrease the “burn” when injected.  The problem with adding bicarbonate is that it decreases the ability of the Xylocaine to work as well and may require a larger volume of injection.  Knowing the details of Xylocaine led to a search for better anesthetics.  Our search led us to Paris, France where we discovered Septocaine.  We found that Septocaine has about the same complications and dosage profile as Xylocaine.  The difference with Septocaine is that it is less painful to inject, it tends to work faster, and provides what patients describe as a more “intense” numbness.  We have used Septocaine as a primary local anesthetic for over 10 years and I am sure it is more comfortable for the patients. The downside is that it is more expensive to use.  This is a small price to pay for patient comfort.  It is important to understand that the reason for all of this discussion is to make sure our facial plastic surgery  patients are comfortable, pain-free, and safe while having facelift surgery and eyelid surgery.

From a medical/surgical point of view there is a very specific and important reason to use local anesthetics and oral sedation rather than general anesthetics.  We are convinced that the vast majority of post-operative facial swelling after facelift surgery is caused by transient but significant changes in blood pressure during and immediately after surgery.  In fact, I believe most hematomas and swelling occur in the period of time after the procedure is finished during the period of time when the patient emerges from general anesthesia.  We believe that controlling the blood pressure at pre-operative levels throughout the operation and especially at the end has decreased swelling post-operatively dramatically.  Blood pressure control and the judicious use of epinephrine in our local anesthesia with complete patient monitoring has completely changed the first 24 hours after surgery – much less bruising, swelling, hematomas.

One might ask why everyone who does facelifts wouldn’t do it with these techniques.  The primary reason is probably the patience it requires and the fact each facelift should be done by itself each day.  This fact resulted in our “One Facelift a Day” promise.

Read more about top facelift surgeon Dr. Paul Howard and his no general anesthesia facelift.