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What is a Deep Plane Facelift?

How is the deep plane facelift different from other face lift techniques?

Doctor Answers (18)

Face lifting techniques vary. Results often don't

+3

The traditional face lift technique, called a SMAS technique, is one in which predominantly the plane of dissection is directly under the skin. The SMAS, which is the muscular and soft tissue layer just below the skin is then tightened and suspended. Following excess skin excision, the incisions are closed. There is a limit to how far you can lift the skin of the face before you start to increase risk of poor wound healing.

Deep plane face lifting was an attempt to move the dissection more centrally towards the nose and upper lip. As opposed to a traditional face lift, where tissues are raised above the SMAS, deep plane techniques work below the SMAS. Deep plane facelifting is specifically designed to gain access to the midface (the triangular area below the eye, to the side of the nose and above the mouth). Volume loss and descent of the fat pads in the midface is a significant part of facial aging that is not well treated by traditional face lifting techniques. By using a deeper plan of dissection, access to these midfacial or malar fat pads is accomplished. Theoretically, increased midface rejuvination is possible via the deep plane.

Unfortunately, a significant increase in risk to facial nerves exists when dissecting below the SMAS. Many surgeons felt that the risk did not justify the results, which may or may not be superior in the short term. Long term studies have yet to show one technique to be better than the other.

In addition, the advent of subperiosteal midface lifting all but eliminated the need for deep plan facelifting. This procedure gives a superior vertical vector of volume displacement which provides a more natural midfacial rejuvination effect anyway.

Finally, other forms of face lifts (s-lift, lifestyle lift, lunch time lift, j-lift, etc.) are just smaller versions of the traditional SMAS facelift. Results, as you might expect, are typically smaller.


Manhattan Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 16 reviews

Deep Plane Facelift

+2

A deep plane face lift is similar to a sub-SMAS face lift with dissection beneath the muscle-fascia layer, however, only limited dissection is performed above the muscle-fascia layer. Proponents claim that the minimal dissection between the skin, fat, and muscle-fascia layer gives the skin an even smoother appearance and faster recovery time while still providing dramatic, longer lasting results than with a standard skin-only face lift.

Jaime Perez, MD
Tampa Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 28 reviews

The level of dissection is deeper

+2

There are many techniques in facelifting and the deep plane is one of them. It was very popular as advocated by Dr. Hammra in Dallas who is the master of this technique. It has lost popularity nationally and is only done by a limited number of surgeons anymore because it only moves the tissues in one direction. Most facelift experts believe that a multi-plane technique such as a SMAS lift gives the best results without looking operated upon.

Richard P. Rand, MD, FACS
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 49 reviews

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Deep Plane Facelift

+1

A deep plane facelift is not significantly different other than the recovery takes several weeks longer, but the long-term results are no different.

Rod J. Rohrich, MD
Dallas Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 18 reviews

Deep Plane Facelift

+1

The deep plane facelift is an advanced surgical technique that achieves a natural looking and long lasting result. This technique represents the state of the art in facelift surgery. Rather than just tightening the skin, this procedure lifts and tightens the underlying muscle while repositioning fat to achieve a three dimensional rejuvenating result. This procedure is best performed by an experienced facial plastic surgeon who performs facelift surgery as a routine part of his or her practice.

Best of luck,

Dr, Clevens

Ross A. Clevens, MD
Melbourne Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 37 reviews

Deep plane facelift involves a deeper and riskier dissection

+1

The deep plane facelift involves disscting in the tissue layer (the SMAS) that contains the muscles and some of the inelastic tissue of the face.  The SMAS is then pulled "up and back," helping restore a more youthful appearance to the face.  Although its use has decreased in popularity over the last few years due to the risks of nerve damage and the fact that some of the benefits of the lift can be achieved through other techniques (such as fat grafting), it remains a valuable tool for facelift surgeons.

P. Daniel Ward, MD
Salt Lake City Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 11 reviews

Deep Plane Facelift

+1

There are many different types of facelifts, each one having a different take by different surgeons.  I use a variant of a deep plane facelift and find it provides the most robust changes while still keeping the face looking natural.  Some things to consider when discussing deep plane facelifts:

  • Anatomy- This facelift is not for every surgeon.  It requires much more knowledge of facial anatomy.  However, an experienced facelift surgeon can perform this lift with little risk to the facial nerves.  A surgeon's knowledge of anatomy is more critical to avoiding damage to nerves than technique.
  • Results- A deep plane facelift is a results driven procedure.  Patients wanting the best results will want to have the more robust changes to the face while still looking natural. 
  • Downtime- The deep plane facelift has a reported longer period of recovery.  However, I have found the opposite to be the case.   I vary my technique to minimize postoperative edema so that patient's have the benefits of a more robust lift without the downtime.  Dissection below the platysma muscle (see article, yes it is in the face) is a natural embryologic glide plane which is bloodless and can expedite recovery.
  • Incisions and Longevity of Lift- Several biomechanical studies have looked at the strength of tissues being held.  Deeper plane tissues is a stronger flap and has less chance of sliding back to original position

Overall, deep plane facelifts (which is a large category of lifts) can provide excellent rejuvenation in the right hands.  Their are risks with any facelift, so pick a rejuvenation procedure by surgeon not by technique.  Not all deep plane facelifts are the same.

Anil R. Shah, MD
Chicago Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 71 reviews

Deep Plane Facelift

+1

While there are a dizzying number of Facelift techniques described, all are a variation on the way the SMAS layer is effected.  Generally, the "deep plane" is that plane of facial tissues below the SMAS layer.  In the original description by Sam Hamra, he discussed cutting through the SMAS layer just in front of the ear and elevating the SMAS all the way past the nasolabial fold.  The benefits:

  • You can really smooth out every wrinkle on the face
  • The results last a very long time
  • You are able to free the SMAS from some of the suspension ligaments of the face

The downside:

  • The muscles of facial expression are enveloped in the SMAS layer.  The nerves that go into these muscles come from below.  When lifting the SMAS, those nerves are at extreme risk of injury, both temporary (some weakness in every deep plane Facelift) or permanent (small percentage).
  • The risk of having a final result that is wind swept and somewhat unnatural is high.  This is in part due to the fact that the suspension ligaments of the face have been mobilized.

Although in the right patient the deep plane face lift may be the right choice, I feel the risks outweigh the benefits.  I do a SMAS imbrication, where a strip of SMAS in front of the ear is excised and the SMAS layer is elevated an inch or so out and then sutured back and up.  This allows for many of the benefits of the deep plane Facelift (longevity, excellent tightening) without some of the risks.

John Bitner, MD
Salt Lake City Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 35 reviews

Deep plane Facelifts lift the deeper cheek muscles

+1

Deep Plane face lifts lift not only the jowls and neck areas, but also release the cheek ligaments and elevate the cheek fat pads and muscles. This is called the malar fat mound, and when lifted reduces the nasolabial folds and gives the face a youthful heart shape.

Andrew Jacono, MD
New York Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.0 out of 5 stars 44 reviews

Definition of a "deep plane" or "composite" facelift

+1

I use a particular technique, called the "composite rhytidectomy" for face-lifting. "Rhytidectomy" is the clinical term for facelift. "Composite" refers to a specific technique which will now be discussed. The evolution of the technique began in the mid-1980's and is now a well defined operation with predictable results.

Conventional techniques for face-lifting begin by lifting the skin off the cheek and neck. The deeper layers are accessed by this dissection and are available for manipulation. However, much of the blood supply to the skin is supplied by networks of blood vessels within these deeper layers that nourish the skin by small perforating vessels. Lifting the skin requires division of these "perforators" thus compromising the blood supply.

The "composite" technique lifts both the skin and the deeper layers (which will be discussed later) as a unit, preserving both the network of blood vessels in the deeper tissue as well as the perforators. The resulting flap of tissue is maneuvered to reposition sagging areas of fat, muscle, and skin to their more natural youthful position. The skin remains well nourished by attention to the blood supply anatomy.

Many conventional techniques rely on pulling the skin to effect changes in the neck, jowl, and cheek. Remember that the pulling is directed behind and above the ear, a significant distance from the center of the neck and the medial cheek. To sharpen the neck angle and flatten the jowl, a significant amount of tension needs to be generated at the level of support around the ear. This commonly will leave the patient with the appearance of being "pulled too tight." The patients have an "operated upon" look.

The composite rhytidectomy bases all support for the facelift on a deeper inelastic layer. As stated, the skin remains attached to the deeper connective tissue and muscular layers during dissection. As the flaps of tissue are redraped, the sutures of support are placed through the deeper inelastic layers of connective tissue. The attached skin accompanies these deeper layers in redraping and are not required to support the lift. The skin is closed almost tension free with the most delicate of sutures. As a result, the patients look more natural, the incisions heal better, there is little risk for hair loss, and the lift probably lasts longer.Management of the Deeper Plane

Vincent N. Zubowicz, MD
Atlanta Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 8 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.