Eyelid Lift (Upper Lid Blepharoplasty)
An upper lid blepharoplasty is an operation that removes loose folds of skin from the upper eyelids. An upper eyelid blepharoplasty is performed for people who have droopy, overhanging eyelids that impair vision, cause frequent blinking and eye fatigue or look unsightly causing a cosmetic problem. It can be combined with ptosis surgery if there is an associated droop of the upper eyelid. Often an eyebrow ptosis (drooping of the eyebrows) contributes to the problem and may need to be addressed separately or at the same time.
An ophthalmic consultation with an oculoplastic specialist can provide a comprehensive assessment of your cosmetic eyelid problem, and a discussion of the available treatment options. It is important that other potential medical problems are excluded as an underlying cause of the complaint e.g. an underactive thyroid gland can cause puffy eyelids.
N.B. The Department of Health provides the following recommendations for this surgery:
Ref: Dept. of Health Cosmetic Surgery Information for Patients www.dh.gov.uk
Upper Lid Blepharoplasty
When upper eyelid cosmetic surgery is undertaken, a curved incision is made through the upper eyelid crease above the eyelashes and a crescent-shaped piece of skin is removed. The area of skin to be removed is first marked out, ensuring that the patient can easily close the eye when the skin is gently pinched with forceps. In patients with bulges of fat, particularly in the inner corner of the upper eyelid, some of the fat is also removed. Tiny blue dissolvable sutures (stitches) are inserted to close the skin wound. These are removed in clinic after 2 weeks if they are still present.
An eyebrow lifting or stabilizing procedure (a “browpexy”) is commonly performed at the same time to achieve the desired result and to prevent the brow from descending further following the removal of upper eyelid skin. In some patients the appearance of “hooded” upper eyelids with overhanging skin is caused by a droop of the eyebrows rather than just by an excess of upper eyelid skin. A blepharoplasty alone may then be inappropriate and may in fact worsen the appearance. An operation to lift the eyebrows may be required instead or in addition. If appropriate in your own individual case this will be discussed with you. There are a number of different procedures which can be undertaken to raise eyebrows. The one most suited to the individual needs of the patient is selected.
Eyelid and Brow Surgery in Facial Palsy
You will visit the clinic to have a preoperative consultation with your surgeon. This usually lasts 30-45 minutes. You will be asked to complete a healthcare questionnaire, providing information about:
- Your specific aims
- Your current and past general health
- Any previous eye, eyelid, brow or facial surgery or treatments including refractive surgery or laser eye surgery
- Any past dermatology history e.g. cold sores, eczema, rosacea, skin cancer
- Any history of a dry eye problem
- Any contact lens wear
- Any previous non-surgical treatments e.g. Botox injections
- Any allergies
- Any medications you take (including over the counter products e.g. Aspirin, Indomethacin, Nurofen, Diclofenac or vitamin supplements)
- Any history of smoking
It is very helpful if you have old photographs which you can bring along to the consultation. If you are happy to email us digital photographs of your current appearance in advance of the consultation with details of your concerns, this is also enormously helpful and saves time. Your photographs will be kept confidential and will form part of your clinical record.
- You will have your blood pressure checked by the nurses. You may also be required to have a physical examination of your heart and lungs by the anaesthetist to make sure it is safe for you to have a general anaesthetic if this is required in your case. You may need to have some routine laboratory tests, such as urinalysis (tests of your urine), a chest x-ray, or a blood cell count. These should reveal potential problems that might complicate the surgery if not detected and treated early. No testing is usually necessary, however, if you are in good health and younger than age 55.
- The nurses are also happy to answer any further questions and to show you the facilities at Face & Eye, including the operating theatre if it is not in use.
- Please answer all questions completely and honestly as they are asked only for your own wellbeing, so that your cosmetic surgery can be planned as carefully as possible. The information is treated confidentially. If you are unsure of the names of any medications, bring them with you.
- You will be told whether or not to stop any medications at this preoperative clinic visit. For example, if you are taking aspirin-containing medicines or anticoagulants, they may need to be temporarily withdrawn or reduced in dose for two weeks before the procedure as long as these are not medically essential. You might need to check this with your GP. Any anti-inflammatory medicines e.g. Ibuprofen, Nurofen must be discontinued at least 2 weeks before surgery. These medicines predispose you to excessive bleeding. You will be given a leaflet advising you on what medications, foods, and vitamin supplements to avoid prior to surgery. Your blood pressure should also be under good control if you take medications for hypertension. This is very important.
- Your vision in each eye is measured. Your eyes are examined carefully using a slit lamp (a special ophthalmic microscope). Your tear film status is determined and the back of the eyes (called the retina) are examined as well as the eyelids themselves.
- The rest of your face is then examined. The general state of your skin is assessed and photographs of your face and eyelids are taken before surgery so that the results of surgery can be compared with the original appearance. The photographs are confidential and can only be used for any purpose other than your own records with your specific written permission.
- All our patients are provided with a detailed report following a consultation. This summarises the consultation, the recommendations and also the preoperative and postoperative requirements.
What are the possible complications of an upper lid blepharoplasty?
Complications in the hands of a trained and experienced oculoplastic surgeon are very rare and all precautions are taken to minimize any risks.
Most complications of eyelid surgery are amenable to successful treatment.
Complications from cosmetic eyelid surgery include:
- Blurred or double vision, lasting mainly for a few hours, and sometimes up to a day or two after surgery. This may occur for several reasons – ointment put in the eyes immediately after the operation, local anesthetic used in the operation, swelling of the muscles that control eye movement or swelling of the normally clear covering around the eye (the conjunctiva). Swelling of the conjunctiva (this may mimic a severe hay fever reaction) is referred to as “chemosis” and in some patients can take a few weeks to resolve. If blurring persists for longer than 48 hours, it is important to inform your surgeon.
- Watery eyes – this is quite common for the first few days after the operation due to some irritation of the eyes and a temporary weakness of reflex blinking of the eyelids.
- Dry eyes may persist for two to three weeks or sometimes longer. You will need to lubricate your eyes every 1-2 hours using artificial tears during the day (e.g. Xailin gel) and an ointment at night (Xailin Night ointment). These should be prescribed for you. You will gradually reduce the frequency until you can dispense with them altogether. It is very rare for patients to have to continue with them long-term but this is possible. This is why it is important to exclude a dry eye problem before proceeding with this type of surgery.
- Injury to the surface of the eyeball (a corneal abrasion) that causes persistent pain. If the pain lasts longer than a few hours after the operation, the surgeon must be informed. Such a problem is extremely rare in the hands of an oculoplastic surgeon. Such a problem is treated with antibiotic ointment. Sometimes a bandage contact lens needs to be used.
- Bleeding. A collection of blood around the eyelids or behind the eyeball, is called a haematoma. A sudden haematoma behind the eyeball can cause loss of eyesight if not managed appropriately and without delay. This is the most serious potential complication of this surgery but is extremely rare. An oculoplastic surgeon is trained to prevent and to manage such a problem. A haematoma usually needs to be drained in the operating theatre.
- Damage to the muscles that move the eyeball (e.g. the superior rectus muscle from the use of cautery to seal a bleeding blood vessel adjacent to the muscle) causing double vision is an extremely rare problem and this usually resolves by itself with time. In the very unlikely event that double vision were to persist, a referral to another ophthalmic surgeon with expertise in the management of eye movement disorders and possible further surgical intervention would be required.
- Exposure of the cornea, the clear sensitive surface of the eye. When blinking the eyelids do not cover the eyeball completely. This often occurs for a short time after the operation and is treated routinely with artificial tear drops. If too much skin is removed from the upper eyelids, the eyelid closure can be compromised long term. This may require further surgery to correct it. For this reason, great care is taken to mark any skin to be removed before surgery is commenced. Such a problem is very unusual in the hands of an oculoplastic surgeon.
- Acute glaucoma – this is raised pressure within the eye, which results in pain in the eye, haloes around lights or severe blurring of vision, a headache above the eye, and vomiting. A patient at risk of such a postoperative problem would be identified by an oculoplastic surgeon. An oculoplastic surgeon is trained to diagnose and treat such a problem.
- Infection. An infection following this surgery is extremely rare but it is important to follow postoperative wound care instructions to help to prevent such a problem. These should be given to you in writing for you to take home following surgery.
- Asymmetry. It is impossible for any surgeon to achieve perfect symmetry although an oculoplastic surgeon strives to achieve this. A cosmetically unacceptable asymmetry e.g. of the upper lid skin crease, fullness of the eyelids, lower lid position is always possible and further surgery may be required to address this.
- Scarring. Most eyelid wounds heal with scars that are barely perceptible although full maturation of the wounds can take some months. Poor scarring can follow infection or wound disruption but this is very rare. Poor scars can be treated with steroid injections or with the application of silicone gels e.g. Kelocote. Rarely, scars need to be revised surgically.
- Eyelid lumps. Lumps can very occasionally occur as a reaction to sutures used to close the wounds. These usually resolve with time but occasionally steroid injections are required. Rarely, lumpiness can occur in fat that is repositioned over the inferior orbital margin. This usually responds to postoperative massage.
- Reoperation. Further surgery within the first few weeks to address any asymmetries may be required. This should be borne in mind. There are a number of factors beyond a surgeon’s control, which can have an impact on postoperative progress e.g. postoperative swelling affecting one side more than the other, which in turn can necessitate re-intervention.
What happens after an upper lid blepharoplasty?
After surgery, the eyes are initially covered with pressure dressings for approximately half an hour to reduce postoperative swelling and the wounds are treated with antibiotic ointment. The dressings are then removed and replaced with cool packs. Activity is restricted for 2 weeks to prevent bleeding.
You will be asked to clean the eyelids very gently using clean cotton wool and Normasol (sterile saline) or cooled boiled water and repeat the application of antibiotic ointment (usually Chloramphenicol or Soframycin) to the wounds 3 times a day for 2 weeks. The sutures used are dissolvable but are usually removed in clinic after 2 weeks. The skin around the eyes should be protected from direct sunlight, by avoidance if possible or by using protective sunglasses. Wearing make-up should be avoided for at least 2 weeks. After 2 weeks the use of mineral make-up is recommended. (The nurses at the clinic Face & Eye can demonstrate this to you). It is important to devote a lot of time to your aftercare for the first 2 weeks and some patients find this somewhat labour intensive.
A realistic period of recovery must be expected. Postoperative bruising usually takes at least 2-3 weeks to subside completely. Swelling takes much longer. Most of the swelling disappears after 3-4 weeks but this can vary considerably from patient to patient as does the extent of the swelling. The final result is not seen for at least 3-4 months. This should be taken into consideration when scheduling the operation. You should arrange this surgery after holiday periods or important professional or social events and not before so that you are available for postoperative review and just in case any surgical adjustments are required. You should be aware that swelling and bruising can sometimes create quite an initial psychological impact for some people and you should prepare yourself and your relatives for this.
The scars gradually fade to fine white marks within a few months. Those in the upper eyelid are hidden within the skin crease unless an additional skin incision is required to remove a “dog-ear” of excess skin just below the tail of the eyebrow.
You will need to use frequent artificial tears for the first 2-3 weeks following surgery. It is preferable to use preservative free drops. These will be prescribed for you e.g. Hyabak drops, Systane eye drops preservative free, Viscotears preservative free, Liquifilm tears preservative free, or Celluvisc drops and Lacrilube ointment at bedtime.
It is often recommended that you use Lacrilube ointment to the eyes 2 hourly for the first 48 hours after surgery following any upper lid surgery but note that this will cause blurring of vision. (You should not drive for the first few days after surgery). These medications can be purchased from my clinic Face & Eye or online from the clinic’s online shop (www.faceandeyeshop.co.uk). You should not pull the lower eyelid down to put these drops or ointments in the eyes following lower eyelid surgery.
You are advised to sleep with the head raised approximately 30 degrees. It is preferable to raise the head of the bed if possible.
Contact lenses should not be worn for a few weeks following this type of surgery.
Conscious sedation, also known as “twilight anaesthesia”, is a type of anaesthesia which is preferred by many patients for most of my surgical procedures. It is a very comfortable and gentle type of anaesthesia which is far less invasive than the typical general anaesthesia but at the same time highly effective. It is also of advantage for very nervous or anxious patients undergoing quite minor procedures. Typically patients sleep most of the way through their procedure and have no or very little recollection of it at all. You are looked after throughout the procedure by a specialist consultant anaesthetist who has many years of experience of this type of anaesthesia, so that your surgeon can concentrate fully on your operation.
Click here to watch a video of a patient describing her experience of “twilight anaesthesia”. She underwent a bilateral upper lid blepharoplasty and endobrow lift at the clinic.
Shortly before moving to the operating room, a small tube (cannula) is placed into a vein in the back of your hand by the consultant anaesthetist and the anaesthetic drug is given through that. This is Propofol, a drug which is also used for general anaesthesia but, for conscious sedation, much lower doses are used. With conscious sedation there is no breathing tube or breathing machine, just a gentle flow of oxygen given through a plastic tube within a soft sponge protector inserted into one of your nostrils. Once the sedation has been commenced a local anaesthetic solution (a mixture of Marcaine and Lignocaine) is injected into the operative area to ensure a painless procedure. Typical side effects of general anaesthesia including a sore throat and nausea are avoided. Waking up takes only a few minutes at the completion of the surgery and is usually free of any “grogginess.” This type of anaesthesia has been used safely and successfully for our surgical procedures for over 20 years.