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Study Finds Thread Lift Dangerous

May 20, 2009

New research warns that a popular surgery used to perform face lifts is associated with too many risks and poor results to be worthwhile for patients.

The procedure is called a “thread lift,” and it involves placing barbed threads under the skin and then tightening them to pull up drooping facial tissues.

In 2005, the Food and Drug Administration approved the Contour Thread Lift system, but it was later rescinded after numerous problems were reported. 

However, Dr. Rima F. Abraham of Albany Medical College, New York and her colleagues note similar products are still available, and the procedure is widely advertised.

Abraham’s team studied 33 patients who underwent the procedure; twenty-three had other procedures as well, while the rest had thread lifts only. Ten additional patients who had other types of plastic surgery served as a comparison “control” group.

Four plastic surgeons that were not told which procedure the patients had received, rated the “aesthetic improvement” for each patient on a scale from 0 (no improvement) to 3 (considerable improvement).

One month after the procedure, the surgeons saw improvements in all the patients. However, at follow-up sessions, which averaged 21 months later, the thread-lift-only group scored lowest, with average improvement scores ranging from 0.2 to 0.5.

The research found that patients who had thread lifts plus other procedures, scores ranged from 0.5 to 1.4. However, scores ranged from 1.5 to 2.3 for the group that only had traditional procedures.

Thread lifts don’t produce lasting results, Abraham and her colleagues say, because they don’t change the shift in facial volumes that happens with aging.

They noted that excess skin left over after facial “tightening” is left in place, and the results seen a month after thread lifting were probably from swelling and inflammation.

The study found complications with thread- lifts such as visible knots and dimpling of the skin.

Three patients involved in the study had to have a thread removed.

Abraham and researchers say that thread-lifts carry a high risk of complications, while extensive scarring may make it difficult to remove the threads. They note that other studies have found up to 20% of patients need a repeat surgery.

“Given these findings, as well as the measurable risk of adverse events and patient discomfort, we cannot justify further use of this procedure for facial rejuvenation,” said the study.

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