Amid the recent rise in entirely non-surgical cosmetic procedures, such as Botox and fillers, surgeons have reported a concurrent drop in the popularity of cosmetic surgical procedures. Data from the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) suggests that facelift procedures fell by 44% last year. Perhaps as a result of this, a new trend for less invasive cosmetic surgery has started to appear, suggesting that patients may be seeking a compromise between the two. However, there are concerns that some advertising is encouraging patients to take a more casual approach to these less invasive procedures than other surgery.

One example of this is a procedure dubbed the ‘40-minute facelift’, which offers facelift surgery that can be performed with no sedation in under an hour. The idea behind this new type of face lift is that it is minimally invasive; the patient can in theory return to work the following day as the procedure only requires a local anaesthetic. The face is lifted from the temples and the incisions are hidden in the hairline, so visible scarring is designed to be minimal as well.

Traditional facelift surgery (rhytidectomy) also lifts up and pulls back the skin to make the face appear tighter, but this is usually performed under general anaesthetic and so involves an overnight stay following surgery. The procedure itself usually takes two to three hours and patients are advised to have between two and four weeks off work afterwards.

While patients may consider procedures such as ‘lunch hour surgery’ to be more straightforward than surgery conducted under general anaesthetic, they may not be fully aware of the common side effects which include a stiff, puffy and numb face, temporary bruising, scars and pain following surgery. Consequently, it may not be a simple case of going back to work the next day.

Equally, patients may find that the desired effect wasn't achieved. Often, those who are unhappy with the results of such surgery go on to have further procedures to try to correct the perceived problem, so it is important to realise that this may not be a one-off.

More seriously, patients need to be aware of the rare but severe risks of any facelift surgery, which include haematoma, nerve injury, hair loss, permanent scarring, bleeding, damage to the deeper structures under the skin, allergic reactions, problems with healing and infection.

Victoria Johnson, an associate in the cosmetic surgery team at Penningtons Manches, said: “Every medical procedure, even if it is not conducted under sedation or is marketed as less invasive, could have potentially serious consequences for a patient. Even if the procedure can be completed in a lunchtime, the effects may last for a lifetime and so the possible risks and side effects should be considered just as carefully as for any other surgery. Patients should make sure they have plenty of time to discuss all the options with their doctor before deciding whether to proceed. Today’s celebrity culture and frequent media stories can persuade people that such surgeries can be undertaken spontaneously. While proceeding with cosmetic surgery may be the right decision for the patient, it is important that this decision is only taken after proper consideration.”