I ended up choosing a doctor who only does facial surgeries, and specializes in what he calls a "weekend laser assisted neck or face lift." It is meant for people in my age range who need some work but not necessarily a full face lift. It is minimally invasive and supposed to have a much shorter recovery time, hence the "weekend" in the title of the procedure. I was told my procedure would take about an hour give or take, and small incisions would be made under my chin and behind my ears. There was the possibility of having incisions in front of the ears as well but they would not decide this until the surgery was under way. I was told I would have stitches under my chin and there would be a small scar there, but the ones by the ears would be very tiny and might not leave any scar at all. The concept was that there would be a laser wand that is inserted into the incision points which would be used to melt and extract the fat (in place of a suction like would be used in traditional liposuction), then the laser would be inserted again down the jawline, in the neck and lower cheek area to tighten the skin as well as the muscle under the neck. This would not only remove the fat but tighten everything up to reduce the sagging jowls and neck. I was told that pain would be minimal, I would be on restrictive activity for about 3 weeks, and would have a good bit of swelling and bruising but could likely return to work in 7 to 10 days depending on my personal preferences.
I had my prodedure done on a Wednesday, I was rather nervous and they gave me Valium to take the morning of. It was under full anesthesia so my husband had to take me, the procedure lasted jut over an hour. I was given pain meds and nausea meds just in case but was told I may not need them. I was sent home in a large, very tight, head bandage that was supposed to keep the swelling and bruising at a minimum. I did not have much pain related to the surgery, I took the pain meds the first day just so I could sleep better as the head wrap was pretty uncomfortable. I had a post op the next morning, again I needed a driver since I was still a bit off from the anesthesia the day before. I was told everything was fine and to come back Monday to have the bandage/wrap removed.
On Saturday the tightness of the wrap started to really affect me, I have TMJ and it was so tight around my jaw that I was in a good bit of pain from that. Again, not from the surgery but from the super tight wrap. It got to the point where it was too painful to open my mouth to eat, so for the rest of the weekend I shoved mashed potatoes in my mouth and drank smoothies from a straw. I stuck it out and waited until Monday to get the bandages taken off despite the jaw pain.
On Monday the bandages were removed (oh glorious day) and they put a gauze wrap and an elastic sling thing around my neck that I was to keep on for another 3 days, I could take it off to shower but had to put it back on. It was not as painful as the other wrap so I managed to eat and function with it. After three days of that then I had to wear the elastic thing at night when I slept, or if I was hanging out around the house but otherwise I could take it off.
I had a good bit of bruising on my cheeks and neck. I was able to put a good bit of makeup on and go out for the first time at the 8th day without feeling like I was making a spectacle of myself. I was given some vitamin K cream to help the bruises go away faster. I was mostly bruise-free at 11 or 12 days and did not need to use cover up any more. I was still pretty puffy at this time but nothing crazy looking.
As part of my treatment there were some after care lymphatic massages included with the esthetician. These were meant to decrease the swelling and were very soothing. My cheeks and neck were sore to the touch (still are a bit) but otherwise I had no pain and it was not uncomfortable to sleep. I was told I would have numbness (I do) for several months and this would gradually get better. I am just over five weeks post op and I am very happy with the results so far. I was told that there is still some swelling that will go down over time, and that the skin would continue to tighten over a period of months as well. At this point I have a patch of skin under my chin that looks kind of crappy but the doctor says that the skin will retract towards my ears and this will smooth out the lines under my chin. It can take up to six months so time will tell. I am really pleased with everything despite that crappy part under my chin and I am definitely glad I did it. I will try to remember to post updates and feel free to ask me any questions.