A Meta-Analysis of Complication Rates Among Different SMAS Facelift Techniques

Aesthet Surg J. 2019 Aug 22;39(9):927-942. doi: 10.1093/asj/sjz045.


Background: Sub-superficial musculo-aponeurotic system (SMAS) rhytidectomy techniques are considered to have a higher complication profile, especially for facial nerve injury, compared with less invasive SMAS techniques. This results in surgeons avoiding sub-SMAS dissection.

Objectives: The authors sought to aggregate and summarize data on complications among different SMAS facelift techniques.

Methods: A broad systematic search was performed. All included studies: (1) described a SMAS facelifting technique categorized as SMAS plication, SMASectomy/imbrication, SMAS flap, high lateral SMAS flap, deep plane, and composite; and (2) reported the number of postoperative complications in participants. Meta-analysis was performed in accordance with Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines.

Results: A total 183 studies were included. High lateral SMAS (1.85%) and composite rhytidectomy (1.52%) had the highest rates of temporary nerve injury and were the only techniques to show a statistically significant difference compared with SMAS plication (odds ratio [OR] = 2.71 and 2.22, respectively, P < 0.05). Risk of permanent injury did not differ among techniques. An increase in major hematoma was found for the deep plane (1.22%, OR = 1.67, P < 0.05) and SMAS imbrication (1.92%, OR = 2.65, P < 0.01). Skin necrosis was higher with the SMAS flap (1.57%, OR = 2.29, P < 0.01).

Conclusions: There are statistically significant differences in complication rates between SMAS facelifting techniques for temporary facial nerve injury, hematoma, seroma, necrosis, and infection. Technique should be selected based on quality of results and not the complication profile.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology*
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology
  • Rejuvenation
  • Rhytidoplasty / adverse effects*
  • Rhytidoplasty / methods
  • Superficial Musculoaponeurotic System / surgery*
  • Treatment Outcome