Plastic Surgery 101

Pain and swelling after a facelift should be minimal

Q. I’m thinking of having a facelift. I’m scared of having pain and all the swelling that comes with it. What should my expectations be with respect to pain and inflammation?

A. I have been practicing more than 30 years in facial plastic surgery and have found there’s often very little pain and swelling associated with these procedures. When I first started practicing, I would normally give my patients 30 pain pills. Often, these pills went unused. I then tapered to 24. Today, I give 12 pills after rhinoplasty surgery, blepharoplasty surgery and facelifts.

Because of my findings I elected to do a study evaluating my patients’ pain and perceived swelling before surgery. The study evaluated 93 patients over an 11-month period. Patients were asked how much pain they thought they were going to have and how much swelling they were going to have.

The patients were then evaluated for how many pain pills they took over a one-week period, and how much swelling they had. Each patient would base his or her pain level from 0 to 10, with 10 being most painful. A similar criteria was used for swelling.

On average the patients with facelift and neck procedures took 1 to 1 1/2 pain pills in the first three days. Patients who had rhinoplasty and blepharoplasty took between 1 and 2 1/2 pills the first three days. Most people took less than that the following six to seven days.

Bottom line: Patients who have facial plastic surgery generally have little pain, don’t use much pain medicine and have minimal swelling.

Dr. Carlos Wolf is a partner in Miami Plastic Surgery and is board certified. Email him at