Procedures Resource Center Plastic Surgeon Info Contact Us Forum Blog Videos Home

Neck Lift Risks and Complications



                                              Licensed image for



  • Risks and Complications

There is going to be some expected discomfort with having a neck lift procedure.  Because having a neck lift is major surgery, there are some surgery related risks involved as well.  However, most consider the risks infrequent and minor.

The risks associated with a neck lift and submental liposuction may include:




Reactions to anesthesia are the most common surgical complication. They can be serious and in extreme cases even life-threatening. 

Read more about anesthesia




During any surgical procedure where the skin is broken, infection can be a risk. 

Symptoms of an infection are:

  • redness

  • drainage from the incision site that is not clear

  • sensitivity

  • localized heat

  • swelling  

Most surgeons put their patients on oral antibiotics after the neck lift procedure to prevent this complication from occurring.

Read more about infections




Each time surgery is performed on any part of the body the risk of bleeding is there.  Hypertension (high blood pressure) that is not under good medical control may cause bleeding during or after cosmetic surgery. Bleeding risks can start from the day of surgery to several days after the procedure. It is important during the recovery period that the patient does not get their blood pressure elevated or their heart rate increased - as this can add to the risk of possible bleeding.  If bleeding does occur and it is not stopped sometimes a wound will have to be surgically opened - and the blood vessels contributing to the bleeding will have to be cauterized. 




A DVT - Deep Vein Thrombrosis is a clot within a blood vessel and is commonly responsible for strokes, heart attacks or pulmonary embolism.  If this complication occurs, this may require emergency surgery or therapy with months of taking a blood thinning medication.  There are some superficial veins in the neck which may be tied off or cauterized to minimize bleeding, which couple possibly contribute to some insignificant blood clots.

Because the skin is separated from the fat and muscles, this leaves a "pocket" where blood can potentially collect and form a blood clot. 




Due to the anatomy in the neck area, there is a potential risk of damaging the nerve that controls movement of the mouth region. Your surgeon has the knowledge of where this nerve runs to minimizes the chances of this complication occurring. Some patients may experience some temporary numbness around the ear due to swelling near the sensory nerve in this area. Permanent numbness is very rare following neck lift surgery.




The blood has collected under the skin and may have to be removed. Hematoma is the most common complication after rhytidectomy.  Hematoma risks are higher in men than in women.  Other factors that are associated with an increased risk of hematoma include anterior platysmaplasty (neck lift), high systolic blood pressure, aspirin or anti-inflammatory medications were not stopped before surgery, and smoking.

Read more about Hematomas

Medication to Avoid Before Surgery




A seroma is fluid accumulations between the skin and the underlying tissues.  If this complication arises, it may require additional procedures for proper drainage of fluid.

Read more about Seromas




The human face and neck are normally not symmetrical to being with. There can be distinct differences between one side of the face or neck area versus the other. During your consultation with your surgeon, he or she will tell you what the chances are for this happening with a rhytidectomy (face lift) and a neck lift.




A tightly pulled neck lift can happen. This appears unnatural and results from removing too much skin. This also can develop from a patient having multiple neck lifts. Once the skin has been removed, it cannot be easily replaced. This complication can be difficult to correct.  However, tension in the neck area as well as around the ear is normal. This feeling comes from the surgeon separating the skin from the underlying tissue. This feeling normally disappears during the first four to six weeks following the neck lift procedure.




Hair loss in the incision lines can occur with having a neck lift procedure. This is generally temporary but can be permanent.




Changes can occur in the positioning of the earlobe and tragus (cartilage in front of the ear opening)  after a neck lift procedure.




An attached earlobe or "pixie ear" occurs when too much skin has been removed nearby.  The remaining, stretched skin pulls the earlobe area down and into the surrounding skin.  It can be corrected through minor surgery.

The chances are low for "Pixie Ear" occur with a full neck lift, but again it's technique dependent. If the surgeon trims too much skin from below the earlobes pixie ear can also happen.




Pain associated with a neck lift is generally for the most part moderate to minimal, however some patients have a harder time than others simply because everyone's own pain threshold is so different. Your surgeon will be prescribing narcotic pain medication for several days after surgery, to make sure you are comfortable during the initial recovery.




Bruising and swelling normally occurs following a neck lift procedure. The skin near the incision site can appear either light or darker than the surrounding tissue. In rare circumstances, swelling and skin discoloration or bruising can be permanent or lasts for long periods of time following the face lift procedure. Temporary swelling around the eyes is also not uncommon shortly after the neck-lift operation




Early relapse is the premature return of sagging skin and jowls, well before the give 7 to 10 year time that a neck lift is expected to last. Relapse may occur within six months. The cause of relapse is not really clear, but it seems to be more common in women with fair complexions and sun damaged skin. Early relapse occurs in 1 percent and can be treated by another neck lift, which is normally for the most part - longer lasting.




Your surgeon will  provide medications before surgery to prevent nausea and vomiting, and surgeons monitor patients before, during and after surgery as precautionary measures for serious complications. Speak to your surgeon about changing medications if you are experiencing any allergic reaction or side effect. If you have a reaction to any medication that has been given to you, contact your plastic surgeon immediately.




As with all surgeries that require general or twilight anesthesia, nausea and vomiting can sometimes happen. Your surgeon will prescribe a anti-enemic (anti-nausea) medication to help you alleviate this symptom if it should occur.  Also, the medication you are prescribed to take after the procedure, the antibiotics and also the pain medication can also contribute to nausea.  Make sure you always take your medication on a full stomach. 




After a face lift and while healing, the incision lines can be red for a time period. This eventually does lessen as you continue to heal during recovery. 

Read our Wound Color Chart





Irregularities or dimpling can happen if there is too much tension pulled on the skin. Puckering can occur around the incision lines as well.





For patients that are known to keloid or have hypertrophic scarring, it is best to ask your plastic surgeon what type of neck lift is going to be right for you. Most surgeons believe that the best way to prevent keloids is meticulous, expert technique.  Not too much tension on the closure with clever suturing.  Patients who are darker skin have more melatonin in their tissue, and tend to get hypertrophic or keloid scarring much easier.

Read our section on hypertrophic and keloid scarring





It is advisable to cut down any exposure to cigarette smoke, either due to your own usage or being in the vicinity of second hand smoke. This will allow for more satisfactory healing to occur.

Read more about Smoking and Cosmetic Surgery





The possibility of a substandard result from a neck lift can occur.

The following can occur during a neck lift:

  • unacceptable visible deformities

  • loss of facial movement

  • wound disruption

  • loss of sensation

  • disappointed with the results of the procedure

Sometimes it is necessary to perform additional cosmetic surgery to improve your results.





With any surgical procedure, most patients will experience some sort of emotional let down after surgery.  Neck lift patients are no exception.  The chemical changes that occur in our bodies after extensive surgery, high expectations of seeing a change immediately all can contribute to post operative depression.  Most patients are aware of this happening and can usually work things out on their own. 

The main factors causing depression after surgery are:

  • medications

  • post-surgical traumatic stress syndrome

  • constipation from the medications

  • long period of just lying in bed

  • being restricted to many activities

There are many plastic surgery patients feeling the after-effects of the surgery not only on their own body - but also their mind.  Finding a group of people to talk about your situation will help tremendously and help the recovery period.  Cosmetic Surgery Forums is here for patients to help them understand their thoughts and see how other cosmetic surgery patients have dealt with it. However, if the depression is worse and you feel you need some professional guidance, be sure you contact your plastic surgeon so he is aware of what you are going through. 





Other Neck Lift Links: