Each type of facial procedure has a different amount of downtime. Depending on the part of the face or neck treated and the technique used, recovery can last from days to months. The ability to return to work and social activities is a key concern when choosing to undergo plastic surgery. Below are several therapies which may speed up healing.
Arnica (a.k.a. leopard’s bane or wolf’s bane) is an oral or topical herbal supplement made from the Arnica montana flower. When applied topically three times a day in the first four days after surgery, it does appear to improve ecchymosis (bruising) and swelling. In general about a 10-30% improvement in bruising can be seen. In an otherwise healthy person who wants to do everything possible to improve bruising, a short course of oral arnica may be worth a try.
Some risks of taking arnica are hypertension or allergic reaction. It is important to remember that supplements are not regulated by the FDA, thus different brands may contain variable dosages and formulations. Always talk with your surgeon to let them know what medications and supplements you are taking prior to and in the weeks following surgery.
Bromeline (or bromelain) is an herbal supplement derived from pineapples. It has anti-inflammatory properties, and it may improve wound healing, bruising and edema after surgery. In general, studies have shown a trend toward improvement in swelling and bruising but no statistically significant differences when compared to placebo. In theory there is an increased risk of bleeding and occasional side effects such as gastrointestinal disturbances and allergic reactions have been noted.
Steroids may reduce swelling and possibly improve bruising following surgeries such as rhinoplasty. A metaanalysis of randomized controlled trials looking at steroids after rhinoplasty surgery found that single dose early steroid administration may reduce bruising and swelling, but there was not much benefit at 3 or 7 days after surgery. Thus, a short course of steroids around the time of surgery, but not a long course or a course that begins at the follow up visit, may be beneficial in improving healing.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy uses specialized chambers to deliver oxygen at pressures higher than atmospheric pressure. To improve postoperative bruising and swelling, hyperbaric oxygen can be delivered in five doses, including 2 treatments in the days prior to surgery, and three treatments in the first week after surgery. Each treatment lasts one hour. In a study of a small group of patients undergoing facelift, hyperbaric oxygen treatment was shown to reduce bruising by 35% and 30% on postoperative days 7 and 10.
Side effects of hyperbaric oxygen are minimal, and while it does require considerable time and cost, it may be a useful adjunct to facial plastic surgery in those patients wishing to expedite their recovery.
Platelet-rich plasma has a number of uses in facial plastic surgery. This treatment involves a blood draw prior to surgery. The blood is then separated into three components. The platelet-rich component is then delivered back to the patient either through injections, placement under the skin during surgery, or applied topically.
The theory behind platelet-rich plasma is that the plasma in which platelets live is full of growth factors which promote wound healing and improve blood supply to the area after surgery. A recent review of its uses and effectiveness shows that PRP may help to reduce bruising and swelling after facelift, helps to improve the appearance of facial scars, and may improve recovery after skin resurfacing treatments. In general, a significant body of evidence suggests that PRP is an effective treatment and can improve both results and recovery after facial plastic surgery.