Thread Lift

The thread lift uses sutures that lift sagging eyes, deep nasiofolds, or an aging neck. Using a thin needle, a surgeon inserts tiny threads under the tissues of the face. The barbs on one end of the thread grab and lift the sagging skin, and the teeth on the other end anchor the skin to the rest of the facial tissues. No incisions or stitches are required, and no scars are produced.
There are two types of threads used for thread lifts: Contour Thread and the Aptos Thread. It’s estimated as many as 9,000 thread lifts have been performed nationwide with Contour Threads, which were approved by the Food and Drug Administration in September 2004 with current indications for elevation and fixation of mid-face, brow, and neck. The Aptos Thread, which was developed overseas, received its premarket approval from the FDA in March 2005.
The main difference between the two is design. Contour Threads are bi-directional, fixed in the area of initial incision, while Aptos Threads are one-directional within the skin after the needle is removed.
The Contour Thread material, clear polypropylene, has been used in other medical applications for many years. It has barbs along the thread that act as cogs that allow the surgeon to grasp, lift, and suspend a relaxed facial area. The barbs open in an umbrella-like fashion to form a support structure that lifts the sagging tissue. The Aptos thread has barbs on the entire length that are inserted under the skin to fill out and lift the cheeks and sagging skin.

   Is a Thread Lift Right for You?

Ideal candidates for thread lifts include people who have minimal signs of aging and need just a little lift. If major signs of aging are already apparent, more traditional surgical options may be the best way to achieve a more youthful appearance.
Many people who undergo thread lifts are women between 35 and 45. They choose a thread lift because they have begun to see more prominence of the jaw, a relaxed (or minimally sagging) mid facial appearance, or slight bags under the eyes or on the neck. Older patients may undergo a thread lift during the more aggressive facelift procedure to provide additional support for the soft tissue area that was elevated in the face lift. Other thread lift candidates include those who have had a relapse from a previous plastic surgery procedure such as a facelift or neck lift.

   The Thread Lift Procedure

Thread lifts are often performed in an outpatient medical surgery center or hospital. Because the procedure is minimally invasive, general anesthesia is not required, so you can remain awake, but sedated with local anesthesia. One benefit is that the plastic surgeon can give you a mirror as the thread is pulled back, allowing you to give feedback.
You may be instructed not to eat or drink after midnight before the thread lift. You may be prescribed an antibiotic to take beforehand, and instructed to cease taking certain other medications.
During the procedure your doctor will make small incisions in key locations and insert a threaded needle to lift the subcutaneous tissue and suspend the lift with the thread. The barbs on these threads will lock in place upon insertion to lift very specific areas.
Variations of the technique exist as well. In general, the “closed” technique involves molding the soft tissue over the suture in multiple location points until it catches in the appropriate location to provide the best result. During an “open” technique, the surgeon will use instruments under the skin to create a raw surface so that when the thread sutures are pulled up, the lift is more likely to remain in the appropriate position. Other surgeons may employ a combination technique that uses sutures at multiple tissue levels to catch all the barbs and create a suspension that cannot be accomplished with a non-barb suture.
Depending on your needs, the number of threads used in the procedure can range from two to 20.

   Thread Lift Recovery Steps

Your doctor will provide a complete post-operative instruction list that you must follow in order to reduce the risk of complications during recovery. These instructions may include an escort to drive you home and assist with daily activities for at least 24 hours, as well as diet restrictions (soft foods) for one week. Pain can be managed with oral medications. Your doctor may recommend elevating your head to reduce swelling. Normal activities can usually be resumed within seven days.

   Complications and Risks of Thread Lifts

While the use of sutures is not new to medicine, the concept of thread lifts is new (FDA Approval 2004-5). Thread lift results are being substantiated and vary greatly among patients. The problems with sutures rising to the surface and offering only short-term smoothening still exist today. Some plastic surgeons estimate that the thread lift results can last from three to ten years.
As with all surgery, thread lifts can have complications. Some patients may develop an infection in the treatment area (this is rare). If so, your doctor will treat infections with antibiotics. Rarely, an infection may require surgical drainage. Scar tissue formation is also possible. Some doctors have noted that migration can occur, which may cause an imbalanced facial appearance. In other cases, the thread may break and require reinsertion. You may experience a lack of sensitivity or numbness in the treated area, which usually subsides within weeks of the procedure.
A significant risk of the thread lift procedure is that you may not notice any improvement. In this case, you would want to proceed with a formal brow lift, facelift, or neck lift for a noticeable improvement.

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