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Facelifts May Be Safe for Seniors Over 75

Health, Not Age Should Dictate Decisions About Facelifts in Older Adults

WebMD Health News

Sept. 22, 2004 -- A facelift for grandma may not be as risky as once thought. New research shows that older adults over age 75 have about the same risk of complications following facelifts as middle-aged adults of comparable health.

Researchers say the findings show that overall health status rather than age should guide doctors and patients in making decisions about cosmetic surgical procedures.

"Preoperative counseling should emphasize patient health status rather than age when considering the risk of post-operative complications," write researcher Ferdinand F. Becker, MD, of the University of Florida College of Medicine at Gainesville, and colleagues. "We find the facelift experience of patients 75 and older to be a reasonably safe one."

Researchers say that the number of cosmetic procedures among older adults is increasing dramatically as more and more people are living longer and enjoying better health. For example, since 1999 the number of cosmetic procedures in people aged 70-79 has doubled, and that number has quadrupled in those over 80.

Face-lifts May Be Safe for Elderly

The study, which appears in the current issue of the Archives of Facial Plastic Surgery, compared the risk of surgical and anesthesia complications after facelift in people 75 years and older versus those aged 45 to 61 years old.

Researchers reviewed the records of two groups of patients who had a facelift performed by a single plastic surgeon in private practice from 1998 to 2002. The average age of the older group was 79 years (33 patients) and the average age of the younger group was 54 years (74 patients).

The study showed that five patients in the older group had complications, such as fluid accumulation at the surgery site or delayed wound healing, after surgery compared with seven in the younger group. Nausea or vomiting after surgery occurred in three patients in the younger group only.

No major complications were reported within six months after the facelifts were performed.

Among healthy patients and those with well-controlled diseases such as asthma, diabetes, or high blood pressure, researchers found there was no statistical difference in the number of complications between the older and younger groups.

As with any surgical procedure, researchers say complications are a consideration and should be discussed beforehand. But they say these findings show that it's more appropriate to gauge the risk of potential complications based on the person's health rather than chronological age.

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