On the show Ally McBeal, a character was romantically pursued because of her neck "wattle" or loose skin – a scenario that would only happen on television, right?
In reality, many people want to rid themselves of neck "wattle" to look younger or to wear certain clothes or accessories more comfortably, without having facelifts.
They may feel they are too young or old for an invasive procedure, are not able to afford the prolonged recovery time, or only want targeted improvement of their neck region. Patients have less invasive options to rid the "wattle," reports a study in May's Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the official medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), through targeted neck rejuvenation techniques.
"Not every patient who seeks to correct facial aging wants or requires a facelift," said James Zins, MD, author of the study. "Today's patients are extremely active and may not want to undergo invasive surgery where they are unable to work or play for several weeks. With this alternative, many patients look younger without the financial cost and downtime associated with a standard facelift."
As people age, they often loose definition in their chin and jaw line due to fatty deposits, weakening muscles and loose skin where the neck and chin once made a right angle. By improving the neck region, patients' profiles look years younger and clothes and fashion accessories such as ties, turtlenecks, and necklaces are worn more comfortably.
Skin in the neck region differs from skin on other parts of the body because it maintains its elasticity and will contract after it is released from underlying muscle. Fat removal through an incision under the chin and behind the ears can be combined with muscle tightening and freeing the skin from the muscle, depending on the degree of aging and individual patient characteristics.
Younger patients, who generally have more skin elasticity and have a "wattle" because of an overload in fat deposits just under the skin, often benefit from liposuction alone. Middle-aged patients generally have fat deposits, as well as, loose neck muscles and skin, requiring the fat removal and muscle tightening technique. Patients older than 75 usually need more contouring in the neck region and require a facelift where excess skin is removed.
According to the study, 33 patients were treated using this combination of neck rejuvenation techniques. Twenty patients experienced moderate improvement to the neck region while 12 experienced a marked improvement.
"Approximately one in 10 patients is a good candidate for neck rejuvenation – but patients must maintain realistic expectations," said Dr. Zins. "These techniques are targeted specifically for the neck and chin areas only. The mid-face and upper-face are clearly not improved by these procedures."
According to ASPS statistics, more than 114,000 facelifts were performed in 2004.