If your neck has a saggy, puffy or doubled appearance, neck lift surgery can help take years off and give you a defined jawline. Neck lift surgery can involve liposuction to remove fat, tightening the muscles under your neck or removing excess skin.

“The goal of a neck lift is to identify loose muscles and remove extra fat and/or skin,” says Chad Gordon, DO, Assistant Professor of Plastic and Resconstructive Surgery and Clinical Director of the Facial Transplant Program at Johns Hopkins Medicine. “The effect can be dramatic and take as much as 10 to 15 years off a patient’s appearance.”

While neck lift surgery can be performed using small incisions to access your neck muscles, skin and fat, every surgery involves some degree of risk. You can expect some discomfort after surgery as well as the following symptoms:

  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Tightness
  • Numbness
  • Tingling

These sensations are typical following surgery, but should subside with time. However, other changes after surgery warrant notifying your physician because they can indicate infection. While your surgeon will take steps to minimize bacterial exposure, surgical incisions can provide an entry point for opportunistic bacteria. Signs you may be experiencing an infection following neck lift surgery include pus or white drainage from your incision site and fever. Take your temperature at regular intervals following surgery, and contact your physician at the first sign of a fever.

Neck lift surgery is performed under general anesthesia, which means you will be placed in a twilight or deep sleep. You can have an allergic reaction to anesthesia medications, but it is a rare and typically non-life-threatening occurrence. Always talk to your surgeon about any drug allergies you have and if anyone in your family has ever had an adverse reaction to anesthesia.

Minimizing Neck Lift Surgery Risks

You can work with your surgeon to establish ways to minimize post-surgical risks long before the day of your surgery. For example, if you take blood-thinning medications, including a daily baby aspirin, your physician may recommend refraining from taking your medications several weeks prior to surgery. This is because blood-thinning medications increase your risk for post-surgical bleeding.

If you smoke, this habit can affect your skin’s overall health and healing time because compounds found in cigarettes and tobacco can impair blood flow. Your surgeon will recommend refraining from smoking at least four weeks prior to your surgery and four weeks post-surgery. If you feel you cannot refrain from smoking, be honest with your surgeon so he can help you evaluate your options.

Carefully following your surgeon’s instructions after surgery can ensure your best chance at recovery. This includes eating a well-balanced diet of lean protein sources, such as salmon, skinless chicken and soy. Protein is a major component of your skin tissue, which assists in wound healing. You will also wish to minimize intense physical activity until about three weeks after surgery. This helps to reduce trauma to the surgical area that could otherwise cause bleeding or increase your risk for infection.

Skin Irregularities After a Neck Lift

While bruising and swelling typically subside within 10 to 14 days following your surgery, you may not see your full results for several months. However, one of the most common post-neck lift surgery complications is skin irregularity. This can occur due to fluid buildup known as seroma that develops under the skin. Your surgeon may insert a tube into your incision to leave in the first few days following surgery to encourage fluid drainage. Your surgeon also will recommend wearing a compression bandage around your neck to minimize swelling. If you do not wear your compression bandages following surgery, this complication is more likely to occur. Your skin may appear lumpy or uneven in some areas. You also may experience skin irregularities due to inadequate or insufficient fat removal, which can create an uneven appearance or make your neck skin appear stretched too