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Neck Lift

It has been said the neck’s appearance is one of the surest indicators of age.  Even in younger people, genetics can cause loose skin, sagging muscles or fat storage in the neck that makes them look older or less physically fit.  To make certain your neck offers a favorable impression, you may be one of the many women and men who choose to have a neck lift to improve the definition between your jaw and neck.    

Age, weight and genetics play significant roles in determining how your neck ages and which procedures will correct the things that bother you.  During your personal consultation, Dr. Sykes will discuss your concerns with you and explain the different ways they can address those issues.  Regardless of the procedure chosen, the goal is a natural, refreshed appearance. 

Many patients receive neck lifts as part of face lift surgery to provide comprehensive lower face rejuvenation.  However, it is not uncommon for younger women and men to choose neck lift surgery to correct specific issues, such as neck muscle banding, turkey wattle from loose skin, and excessive fullness. 

Choice of procedures
The type of procedure you will undergo depends on the specific issue or issues you want to address.  Younger patients with full necks who have not yet experienced muscle sagging may have liposuction to remove fat deposits.  To perform neck liposuction, the doctors make a small incision beneath the chin that allows them to suction out the excess fat.  Because a receding chin line is often the partial cause of neck fullness in younger patients, it is fairly common for patients to receive a chin implant to achieve a more harmonious facial balance.

To correct sagging muscles and excess skin, the doctors make two tiny incisions under the chin and longer incisions around the ear so they can tighten the platysma (neck muscle).  They secure the tightened muscle in place using a number of long-lasting sutures.  The final step is trimming away excess skin and closing the incision with sutures that will be removed a week later. 

While it is possible to trim away excess skin only, Dr. Sykes seldom performs the procedure without also tightening the underlying muscle.  Trimming skin requires the same incision needed to tighten the neck muscles and the results of skin removal will eventually be undone by the underlying sagging neck muscle. 

What to expect
When done alone, neck lift surgery or liposuction usually take place under local anesthesia and light sedation.  If performed as part of a face lift or in combination with other procedures, you may be given general anesthesia.  In either case, you will be asleep during the operation, which may take up to two hours or longer if done with other procedures.  The sides of your head will be wrapped with a bandage to protect the incisions from infection.  You’ll come into the office the following day so the surgeon who performed your procedure can check on how you are doing and answer any questions.  Your next office visit will be scheduled a week after surgery so the surgeon can check on you again and remove the external stitches.

The first 24 to 48 hours following surgery you will be groggy from the anesthesia and may experience discomfort, minor pain and tightness in the neck.  Though you will receive a prescription for pain medication, many patients report they only need to take acetaminophen for the pain.  Your neck will be noticeably swollen for about two weeks, with some residual swelling that can linger for much longer.  Bruising is also expected for about two weeks, longer in some patients.  Icing with frozen peas during the first 24 to 48 hours will help minimize swelling and bruising, as will keeping your head elevated for the first week after surgery. 

With swelling and bruising noticeable for at least the first 10 days, you can expect to look worse than you feel.  After two weeks, you can return to work and resume most of your normal activities.  We recommend you refrain from strenuous activity for four weeks to allow your body to heal properly and prevent injury. 

Typical results
Results depend on the reason for surgery and extent of procedures performed.  Younger patients who undergo neck lift surgery to correct a genetic predisposition to neck fullness or to tighten up the neck following weight reduction can expect to see a noticeable improvement in their contour, balance and facial profile.  Older patients who undergo neck lift surgery alone, can expect their necks to look 10 to 15 years younger.  If combined with other procedures, the age reduction will spread to other areas of the face as well.  Because the aging process cannot be stopped, you will continue to age but your neck will always appear more youthful than if you had never undergone neck lift surgery. 

Neck Lift Fast Facts
The following are general guidelines only.  Variations are common.

Surgery length:

1 to 2 hours


Office or hospital outpatient surgery suite


Light sedation or general anesthesia, patient is asleep during surgery


External dressings wrapping the side of head to protect incisions

Pain & discomfort:

Some pain for the first few days, most often dull and generalized.  Tightness in the neck muscle.    

Swelling & bruising:

Moderate, generally peaking by day three.  Bruising typically fades in 10 to 14 days.  Most of the swelling resolves in the first three weeks, though some residual swelling will remain for several months.  

Suture removal:

Typically at one week

Return to work:

Ten days to two weeks

Resume exercise:

Four weeks

Initial results:

One week following surgery, when sutures are removed 

Final results:  

Six months


Permanent, affected by ongoing aging


Jonathan M. Sykes, MD
Professor/Director of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
UCDavis Medical Group
2521 Stockton Blvd., Suite 6206
Sacramento, CA 95817
(916) 734-2347
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