Cleveland Clinic Study Shows Age Alone is Not a Risk Factor for Plastic Surgery in the Elderly

Cleveland Clinic researchers have found that patients who undergo a facelift after the age of 65, if screened properly, are at no higher risk for complications compared to younger patients, according to a first-of-its-kind retrospective study published online today by Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

The authors studied consecutive facelifts in more than 200 women performed by one Cleveland Clinic surgeon over a three-year period.

“Facelift surgery in the elderly has always been perceived to carry more post operative risk,” said Dr. James Zins, Chairman of Plastic Surgery at Cleveland Clinic. “According to our study and pre-operative screenings, patients over 65 had no statistically significant increase in complications.”

The purpose of the study was to evaluate the safety of facelift surgery in an elderly population. Specifically, is chronologic age an independent risk factor leading to a higher complication rate in the elderly patient undergoing facelift surgery?

The study analyzed the outcomes of 216 female patients who underwent rhytidectomy between 2005 and 2008. Patients were divided into two groups: those under age 65 (148 patients) and those 65 and older (68 patients). Co-morbidities, operative details, ASA (overall health status) and complications were compared using statistical analysis.

In a series of carefully selected elderly patients, facelift complication rates were not statistically different when compared to a younger control group. The data suggest that chronologic age alone was not an independent risk factor for facelift surgery. The average age was 70 years in the elderly group and 57 years in the younger group. When compared to the patients under age 65, elderly patients were more likely to have a higher ASA score and to have had a prior facelift (41.2 percent vs. 17.6 percent).

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, over 12 percent of the U.S. population is over the age of 65. About 40 percent of this population undergoes plastic surgery each year. By 2030, there will be about 72.1 million older persons, more than twice their number in 2000.

“It should not be generalized from the study that elderly patients can undergo a facelift operation with the same low complication rate as seen in the younger age group,” said Dr. Zins. “Careful screening of the elderly patients and excluding those with significant co-morbidities led to the low complication rate.”

The research will be published online Friday, May 27, 2011, at and in the June print edition of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

Further studies are needed to define whether a chronologic age limit for safe facelift surgery beyond age 70 and 75 exists.

About Cleveland Clinic

Celebrating its 90th anniversary, Cleveland Clinic is a nonprofit multispecialty academic medical center that integrates clinical and hospital care with research and education. It was founded in 1921 by four renowned physicians with a vision of providing outstanding patient care based upon the principles of cooperation, compassion and innovation. Cleveland Clinic has pioneered many medical breakthroughs, including coronary artery bypass surgery and the first face transplant in the United States. U.S.News & World Report consistently names Cleveland Clinic as one of the nation’s best hospitals in its annual “America’s Best Hospitals” survey. About 2,800 full-time salaried physicians and researchers and 11,000 nurses represent 120 medical specialties and subspecialties. Cleveland Clinic Health System includes a main campus near downtown Cleveland, nine community hospitals and 15 Family Health Centers in Northeast Ohio, Cleveland Clinic Florida, the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas, Cleveland Clinic Canada, and opening in 2013, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. In 2010, there were 4 million visits throughout the Cleveland Clinic health system and 155,000 hospital admissions. Patients came for treatment from every state and from more than 100 countries. Visit us at Follow us at

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