A lip lift is a plastic surgery procedure that modifies the cosmetic appearance of the lips by reshaping them to increase the prominence of the vermilion border; and to enhance the facial area above the lips into a more aesthetically pleasing shape. In corrective praxis, a lip lift procedure is distinguished from lip enhancement, the augmentation of the lips, which can be effected with a non-surgical procedure.
There are surgical and non-surgical techniques for effecting lip lift and lip augmentation to the lips. The surgical techniques include incisions below the nose and in the periphery of the lips area of the face, the perioral area; other techniques effect the surgical incisions from inside the mouth.
- Surgical aesthetics
The aesthetic ideal of a mouth with youthful lips — shaped like a lozenge — features an upper lip with a pronounced Cupid's bow, and much fullness to each lip; however, such an ideal physiognomy declines with age, and the lips shrink and lose anatomic definition, as the lips sag, which affects the aesthetics of the smile, by revealing less of the teeth during a relaxed smile. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons reported 3.2 million cosmetic surgery procedures performed to mature patients, aged 55 years and older, in 2008. The patient demand for facial rejuvenation indicates that most requests do not include the mouth, which results in a surgical outcome that is aesthetically deficient. In the 1980s, when collagen, originally the principal filler for the lips, proved limited in effecting permanent correction, plastic surgeons then developed surgical techniques for lifting and augmenting the lips, and correcting aesthetic defects and deformities.
- The gull-wing lip lift
The “gull-wing lift” is an effective surgical technique for increasing the prominence (display) of the vermilion coloring of the lips, by removing skin (and other tissues) as required, ether directly from or from above the white line of skin that borders onto, and sets off, the vermilion of the lips (the white roll). The incisions remove tissue and significantly alter the shape of the lips by moving up the vermilion from both peaks of the Cupid's bow outwards to the commissures, the corners of the mouth. Incisions are also made below the lower lip to increase the projection of the vermilion of the lower lip. This gull-wing lip lift usually requires an OR time of approximately 20 minutes; post-operatively, the swelling of the lips subsides at 1–2 weeks and the tightness subsides at 2–4 months. Asymmetry, under-correction, and hypertrophic scarring are possible complications.
- Sub-nasal lip lift
A technical variant of the gull-wing lip lift is the sub-nasal lip lift (bull-horn lip lift), which involves the removal of either an ellipse or a curved-edge ellipse of tissue from under the nose. The skin then is raised, and sutured to lift the lip and expose more of the upper-lip vermilion. Depending upon the indications of the patient, this technique can increase the drooping the corners of the mouth (commissures); thus, the sub-nasal lip lift often includes a corner-lift surgical step. In the corner lift procedure (external angle oral commisuroplasty), triangles of tissue are resected from above the commissures, thereby elevating the corners of the mouth. A descending wedge of tissue can also be removed to add contour to the Cupid's bow or to reduce bulky lips.
Another variation of the procedure is for a surgeon to make an incision inside the mouth to loosen the mucosa and vermilion, which are then advanced and secured, leaving a portion of scar tissue inside the mouth which may take 2–4 months to heal. Yet another technique uses a "W" incision inside the mouth to create several "V" flaps, which are then used in a V-to-Y plasty technique to advance the vermilion of either or both lips. This procedure leaves no exposed areas inside the mouth, but can be painful and has a lengthy recovery period.
- Thread lip lift
Another variation is the thread lift, in which a square stitch is placed from one nostril to the other and down to the peaks of the Cupid's bow. This variation has fallen out of favor because the results are short-lived.
Results and complications
Although surgeons report patient satisfaction with these techniques to be "high," no one variation has been sufficiently applauded to become the standard procedure. Most of these methods result in an increase in the amount of vermilion visible, but so far, quantitative data exists only for the V-Y lip augmentation, for which statistically significant increases in upper vermilion height and surface area have been measured.
Complications which may arise from lip lift surgery include:
- Lip distortion
- Lip lengthening
- Smile deformation
- Speech impediment
- Visible scarring
Advancements and improvements in non-surgical fillers available for lip enhancement has reduced demand for the lip lift procedure.
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