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Dr. Barry Eppley

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Posts Tagged ‘cheek lift’

Options in Cheek and Midface Enhancement for the Aging Face

Sunday, January 26th, 2014


The one facial feature that is most associated with a youthful looking face is that of the cheeks. Firm uplifted and rounded cheeks are what is seen in younger people, flat deflated cheeks are usually seen as many people age. It is the loss of cheek volume that contributes to a tired looking and aged appearance. While browlifts and eyelid surgery for the upper face and neck and jawline lifts for the lower face have been around for decades, the intervening zone between the two has caught a lot more interest of late.

Cheek and midface rejuvenation  is the last facial region to receive a lot of attention from both surgical and non-surgical treatments. Numerous good options exist today including the use of synthetic implants , cheek lifts , fat injections and expanded uses of injectable fillers. While  each of these cheek enhancement treatments have their advocates and critics, it is important to realize that the controversy is more about indications and less about effectiveness.

Midfacial Implants Dr Barry Eppley IndianapolisOne of the first treatments for midface rejuvenation was that of silicone cheek implants, specifically the submalar implant style.  By adding volume to the underside of the cheekbone, a subtle but visible lift of the midface was obtained through a combined voluminization and positional effect.  Restoring fullness to the ‘apple’ area of the cheek removes the midface flatness. The submalar cheek implant has now been expanded to incorporate more of the cheek area through a new style known as the malar shell.  The biggest benefit of using implants is that they create permanent volume but yet can be completely and easily reversed if needed. Any concern about implant stability or shifting is removed by screw fixation to the bone.  There is never any concern about implant settling/erosion in the cheek bones. Such facial implants have proven over the years to be very safe and effective when well placed with a very low risk of problems.

While cheek lifts (midface lifts) were the rage a decade ago for midface rejuvenation, they have fallen considerably out of favor. Beyond the complication risk of lower eyelid deformity (ectropion), the concept of lifting up fallen or sagging cheeks has not proven to be effective or sustainable alone over the long -term. Cheek lifts, as part of an extended blepharoplasty, still have a midface rejuvenation role but they need to be combined with the addition of volume through the concurrent insertion of cheek implants or with fat injections.

The real revolution in cheek enhancement has been through the use of injectable fillers. This has not only made it possible for a wide array of practititoners to engage in midfacial augmentation but the number of filler options is considerable. With injectable fillers, it is theoretical possible that just about every patient over 40 years of age could benefit by some degree of volume addition. Younger patients may only need a single syringe or less while older patients may need multiple syringes over broader areas.

The injection location for filler placement is based on an understanding of aesthetic cheek anatomy. A youthful cheek has a three-dimensional shape with the greatest projection producing a light reflex at the apex of the cheek. This point is often described by the intersection of lines drawn down from the lateral canthus of the eye to one drawn from the corner of the mouth to the tragus of the ear. But the injector must use an artistic assessment as to what looks best for each patient.

Juvederm Voluma Cheek Injectable Filler Dr Barry Eppley IndianapolisWhile many fillers exist for midface injection, the hyaluronic acid-based (HA) fillers are associated with the best safety profiles. The more robust HA fillers, such as Juvederm, works best as their higher G prime (stiffness) allows the cheek tissues to be lifted effectively with less volume than other fillers. A game changer in cheek fillers has been the introduction of Voluma late last year. As an extension of the HA product Juvederm, Voluma was specifically made and studied for the cheeks/midface. Its unique properties allow it to lift tissues effectively and it persists for over a year.

Fat injections has grown tremendously in popularity over the past decade and the cheeks is one of its prime targets in the face. It is a treatment option between injectable fillers and synthetic implants.  It offers a more less invasive option than implants but with the potential for a longer-lasting result than injectable fillers. The key variable in this equation is the unpredictability of how well injected fat survives. While the cheek is one of the most favorable areas for fat survival in the face, it is still wildly unpredictable. The appeal of its natural composition is counterbalanced by the risk of partial or complete resorption.

When factoring all the advantages and disadvantages of every cheek enhancement option,  it is a balance of the magnitude of the problem vs. how much effort one wants to invest in the treatment. For the younger patient with early facial aging concerns, injectable fillers are the best treatment unless they are having surgery for other aesthetic issues (e.g., rhinoplasty, breast augmentation, liposuction). Then fat injections would be worth the effort in the hope for a long lasting result. For the older patient with more moderate to more advanced midfacial aging, implants are the best treatment as other facial rejuvenation procedures are being simultaneously done. Fat injections are a good choice for those patients who are opposed to implants but they should not expect the same predictable volume result.

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana

The Importance of Skeletal Support in Midface Lifts

Monday, May 13th, 2013


Rejuvenation of the aging face has well established methods for correcting the upper (browlift) and lower face (lower facelift/necklift) that produces consistent and satisfying results. But the face does not age in just individual subunits and the midface has similar aging issues that are uniquely different. Sagging cheeks, lower eyelid hollowness and lines and folds under the eyes present challenges for successful rejuvenation.

The development of midface rejuvenation techniques has historically lagged behind that of the upper and lower face. Only in the past decade has the concept of midface lifting emerged. The vector of the midface lift is different than that of a facelift being more vertical than oblique in orientation and more closely resembles the direction of a browlift. But it has been associated with significantly more complications and dissatisfaction than either browlifts or facelifts.

The factors that contribute to midface rejuvenation complications are several fold. First, most midface lifting techniques go through the lower eyelid and require resuspension after the tissues are lifted. This places the lower eyelid at risk for sagging or ectropion due to the tension placed on it and the very delicate suspension system of the lower eyelid which is easily disrupted. Secondly, where to attach the lifted cheek tissues to is limited and adequate bony support may be lacking.

As a result of this midface conundrum, a wide variety of open and endoscopic midface lifting techniques has developed. There is no consistent midface rejuvenation technique and this has lead to a lot of confusion on the part of both surgeons and patients alike.

To aid surgeons in midface analysis and in the selection of the most successful rejuvenation strategy, a paper on this topic published in the March 2013 issue of the journal of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. A retrospective review was done on 150 patients who had midface rejuvenation procedures done by a single surgeon. The procedures included cheek implants, fat injections, limited and full midface lifts and facelifts. The vast majority were women (93%) with an average age of 51 years as would be expected. About one-third of patients had more than one treatment for their midface aging. Patient dissatisfaction in this study was 14%. Fat grafting alone had the highest rate of dissatisfaction of all treatments. The rate of patient dissatisfaction was associated with malar hypoplasia (skeletal deficiency) and loss of skin elasticity.

What makes midface rejuvenation unique from a facelift is that the degree of skeletal support is significant. No matter how well the cheke tissues are lifted, failure to achieve an aesthetically pleasing or a sustained result is doomed if the cheek bone does not have adequate projection to support it. The use of cheek volumizing through implants is needed in such cases. When the cheek skin has poor elasticity, pulling up alone again is inadequate and adding skeletal support needs to be considered.

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana

Rejuvenation of the Aging Lower Eyelid and Cheek

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012


There are many signs of facial aging but most people are usually concerned with what happens around the eyes first. The classic presentation of periorbital aging is a progression of tissue changes including excess lower eyelid skin, protruding orbital fat (bags), lower eyelid instability and the falling of the adjacent cheek tissues. (malar descent) While the upper and lower eyelid ages similarly in any person, the scope of the lower eyelid is actually bigger if you include the surrounding cheek regions. Thus the lid-cheek region is a frequent target for facial rejuvenation efforts.

Traditionally, these aging changes were managed by a standard lower blepharoplasty operation which involved an elongated lower eyelid incision and removal of skin and fat. While this basic operation still works well for many lower eyelid concerns, it is known to have potential lid malpositioning problems with risks of ectropion (lid sagging) and separation of the globe-lid intimacy. The precarious suspension support of the lower eyelid is prone to being disrupted by incisional placement, delamination of the lower eyelid tisues with lack of orbicularis muscle integrity near the lid margin, unrecognized weakness of the lateral canthal tendon and over-resection of lower eyelid skin.

One lower eyelid rejuvenation trend that has become commonly used over the past decade, partially as a response to the risk of ectropion, is the transconjunctival approach. Avoiding skin resection and an external lid incision, herniated orbital fat can be removed or repositioned through button hole sized incisions on the inside of the lower eyelid. While protruding orbital fat was once uniformly removed, it is now frequently being preserved and used as a filler for tear troughs, nasojugal grooves and creating rim augmentation to smooth out the lid-cheek junction. Because the blood supply to the overlying lower eyelid skin is preserved, skin resurfacing for wrinkles can be done with lasers or chemical peels.

One evolution of lower eyelid rejuvenation, which is the opposite of a transconjunctival blepharoplasty, is the extension into simultaneous cheek rejuvenation as well. These so-called cheek or midface lifts are a collection of procedures whose technical differences can be as diverse as the surgeon who performs them. Lifting up sagging cheek tissues through a full lower blepharoplasty incision and securing to some location along the zygomaticorbital bone, or even higher to the temporal and forehead regions, allows them to sit back up or higher on the cheek bone. But because it is a more invasive and extensive procedure with much wider tissue dissection than a lower blepharoplasty, it ironically has an even higher risk of ectropion and lower lid scarring problems if not executed to technical perfection.

While it can cause it, these cheek lifts can also be used to treat lower eyelid retraction problems as well. Lifting and supporting the surrounding cheek tissues can relieve the tension on the repositioned lower eyelid at the lateral orbital wall. Releasing the lower eyelid scar, retightening or remaking the lateral canthus and some cheek tissue release and resuspension can be very effective for getting the outer aspect of a retracted lower lid back up against the globe.

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana

The Temporal Tuck-up for Cheek Sagging

Saturday, June 12th, 2010

Lifting of aging and sagging facial tissues is often perceived as a facelift. In reality, a traditional facelift only affects the lower third of the face…the neck and jowls. That leaves out the two other major facial areas which can be lifted, the forehead (brows) and cheeks. Browlifts are well known and very effective facial rejuvenation procedures whose numerous techniques and methods are well established. Browlifts are often done in combination with a facelift. The cheek area, while aging as much as the brows and the neck, does not have a simple  and consistently effective  surgical lifting procedure.

Cheek lifts, also known as midface lifts, are intended to lift sagging tissues that were once on top of the cheeks. When the soft tissue falls off of the bony cheek due to loosening of its ligamentous attachments to the skin, it creates what are known as malar festoons. These are bags or bunching of tissue that often creates a ‘double bubble’ look to the midface. Or the midface can look like wax melting off of candle. Most people think that a facelift or a browlift will somehow correct this cheek sagging but it will not.

Midface lifts are relatively new compared to facelifts and numerous techniques have been used. The fundamental midface lift approach can be ascertained based on the vector of pull and incisional access. The traditional midface lifts is done through a lower eyelid incision and pull the cheek tissues directly upward. When using this technique, I will fix the cheek tissues to a cranial fixation point directly above a vertical line up from the cheek. This is a very powerful method for lifting sagging cheek tissues but involves manipulation around and through the eyelid. The eyelid is very unforgiving and numerous complications can result. Eyelid deformities, particularly ectropion, is not rare with this type of midface lift. This cheek lift requires absolute precision and is very unforgiving of any slight technical deviation.

An alternative and less problematic approach is that of the temporal cheek lift. The incision is right at the junction of the  preauricular and temporal hairline. By placing it here, the hairline will not be shifted upward and the delicate lateral eyelid area is completely avoided. Skin flaps elevated for about an inch or inch and a half downward so that its pull lifts the cheek tissues. This is then combined with the use of barbed sutures or threads which are inserted underneath the skin flaps. They are directly toward the sagging cheeks and then tied together to further lift the cheeks. The combination of the skin pull and the barbed sutures creates a very nice cheek tuck-up. The excess raised skin, now lying over the incision is trimmed and closed.

This temporal cheek tuck-up has numerous advantages including ease of execution, lack of any problems in the eye area, and very minimal recovery. It can be performed in the office under local anesthesia. Its disadvantage is that it is not as powerful as the cranially-directed midface lift so patient selection and expectations are critical. I have found it useful for those patients with more mild forms of cheek sagging, after a facelift procedure, and when a conventional midface lift needs further improvement.      

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana

The Cheek Lift in Facial Rejuvenation

Saturday, June 20th, 2009

The cheek lift is a plastic surgery procedure designed to lift and tighten the cheek and a little of the jowl area. It is also referred to as numerous other names such as a short scar facelift, S-lift, J-lift, and trademarked names such as Lifestyle Lift and Quick Lift which are variations of the basic cheek lift procedure. It is suited for those who are looking for just a perk-up or light facial lift rather than a full facelift.

The cheek lift is best suited for younger patients (< 50 years of age) who have adequate or strong cheek bones, not a lot of loose skin, minimal jowling and maybe a little excess fat in the central neck area. This procedure is not a replacement for a cheek-neck lift or facelift if there is a lot of excess neck and jowl skin and fat.

For the cheek lift, thin incisions are made inside of the ear for women or in front of the ear for men . The incision is then carried up into the hairline, well back of the sideburn or temporal hairline. These incisions do, of course, result in scars although they are well-concealed within the hairline and inside of or in front of the ear. The skin in front of the incision is lifted after dissecting deep near the cheek area. This enables the loose cheek skin to be lifted up and back. I usually perform some SMAS elevation and imbrications as I don’t want to the long-term results to rely exclusively on the skin closure. These maneuvers provide for a long-lasting, natural results without a “pulled-back” look. Liposuction of the neck and other procedures such as blepharoplasty are often performed at the same time for a more complete rejuvenation or anti-aging effect. The cheek lift alone takes about an hour or so to complete.

Recovery after a cheek lift takes about a week at which time one can look fairly ‘non-surgical’.Swelling and bruising are quite minor. Showering is permitted the very next day with washing and blowdrying of hair. One can return to work in about one week but should wait for about two weeks before undertaking strenuous activities and exercise. The stitches are often dissolveable and require no removal.

The cheek lift is a nice gentle procedure that really is easier to go through and recover from than most would think. Do not confuse it with how most people envision as a facelift, which is a neck procedure primarily. It works best when it is combined with other facial procedures of which the list could be numerous nips and tucks, injectable fillers, or facial implants. In my Indianapolis plastic surgery practice, I find that it works well with a lot of other facial rejuvenation procedures and its effect is enhanced by doing so.

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana

The Role of Midface Lifts in Facial Rejuvenation

Monday, April 13th, 2009

The earliest signs of facial aging often appear in the midface area, a triangle defined by the inner and outer corners of the eye and the corner of the mouth. There may be loose lower eyelid skin and bulging fat bags. The line of demarcation between the lower eyelid and the cheek (lid/cheek junction) begins to drift lower. In addition, the cheek tissues slowly fall downward, making the nasolabial fold more prominent. The aging midface area can look a little like wax melting off a candle.

Traditional plastic surgical procedures are ineffective in correcting these midface problems, even when a lower blepharoplasty and facelift are done at the same time.. The classic lower eyelid tuck could remove excess skin and fat bags, but could do nothing with the fallen cheek tissues. The traditional facelift, or neck-jowl lift, offers virtually no changes in the cheek, nose, and upper lip area despite that many patients believe that it will.

As a result, the midface lift (not a facelift) procedure has emerged to correct this historically unreacheable aging area. The midface lift is done through an incision immediately below the lashes of the lower eyelid and extends slightly out from the outer corner of the eye in a crease line. By dissecting down to the cheek bone, the fallen cheek tissues are separated from the bone, lifted vertically, and put back up in a higher position on the cheek bone. Excess lower eyelid skin and fat can also be removed if necessary after the cheek tissue is repositioned. (which is almost always needed) The eyelid incisions are closed with dissolving sutures under the lashline and very small sutures out into the crease skin.

One of the keys to a good and stable midface lift is where to secure the cheek tissues which are lifted up by sutures. Here is a point of plastic surgery debate and different surgeons have their own methods. In my Indianapolis plastic surgery practice, I prefer to use a high cranial suspension point which is immediately vertical to the direction of upward pull. This requires a small incision in the scalp above the temporal area.

Midface lifts result in a smoother lower eyelid, a fuller cheek bone prominence, and a less deep nasolabial fold. Many patients will look like they have had a small cheek implant placed. Such changes created a less tired look and a face that has a more youthful and full appearance. Remember that this operation is not a facelift, it will not improve the neck or jowl area. It may frequently be done at the same time as a facelift to create a more complete facial rejuvenation.

A midface lift is often done with upper and lower eyelid tucks (blepharoplasty) at the same time, or even a facelift. As a result, the eye and cheek area will get fairly swollen and bruised after and the corners of the eye will feel tight. One will not look fairly reasonable in most cases until about 7 to 10 days after surgery. (non-operated look) One should be capable of returning to sedentary-type work – perhaps with some camouflage makeup – within a week after surgery. More vigorous activites must usually await three to four weeks until one is ready.

 Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana

Midace Rejuvenation – Implants vs Lift

Sunday, November 4th, 2007

One of the most overlooked areas of facial aging is that of the cheek region. Most think of facial aging in the neck, jowls, or eyes, and while these certainly exist, the midfacial cheek region often sags as well. In those patients with weak cheekbones and a flatter face, the cheek tissue can especially sag as one ages. This appears as a ‘double bag’ under the eyes with deepening of the lip-cheek grooves. Like ‘wax dripping from a candle’, the cheek soft tissues can be seen as falling off of the cheek bone.

Such midfacial aging has created two basic approaches to addressing this facial aging concern. Historically, a special type of cheek implant has been used, a submalar implant. This type of facial implant sits on the underside of the cheekbone. Because it is placed on the underside of the cheek, it does not accentuate the cheekbone, but rather helps push up fallen cheek tissues. The implant is placed through the mouth through a small incision and is either screwed or sutured to the underside of the cheekbone to hold it in place. As a result of its position, it also helps add fullness to the triangle area under the cheekbone, restoring a subtle and youthful fullness to the midface. This is a simple approach, with few complications, and is a good alternative for those patients that have a minor problem of midfacial aging and can accept a synthetic implant.

An alternative, and more recent approach, has been the midface lift. With this technique, the sagging cheek tissues are actually lifted and resuspended by sutures into a more lifted position. This is done through a lower eyelid approach (and is often done simultaneously with a lower eyelid procedure (blepharoplasty) where the sagging cheek tissues are lifted off of the bone from above. Sutures are then placed through the loosened tissues and are passed underneath the skin and sutures high onto the fascia or bone of the temples. The sutures can be adjusted to control how much lift is achieved. This method restores fullness to the midface by using the patient’s own tissues rather than implant. This is a more complex procedure, with the risk of lower eyelid malpositioning, and is a good choice for those patients with more severe midfacial aging who can accept a longer period of swelling around the eyes after surgery. In the midface lift, make sure you have a plastic surgeon experienced in the procedure due to its higher rate of complications.

Dr Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana

Dr. Barry EppleyDr. Barry Eppley

Dr. Barry Eppley is an extensively trained plastic and cosmetic surgeon with more than 20 years of surgical experience. He is both a licensed physician and dentist as well as double board-certified in both Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. This training allows him to perform the most complex surgical procedures from cosmetic changes to the face and body to craniofacial surgery. Dr. Eppley has made extensive contributions to plastic surgery starting with the development of several advanced surgical techniques. He is a revered author, lecturer and educator in the field of plastic and cosmetic surgery.

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