In 2005, the Food and Drug Administration approved the Contour Threadlift system, which was rescinded after reports of problems. However, similar products are still available and the procedure continues to be used extensively. Dr. Rima F. Abraham of Albany Medical College, New York, and her colleagues conducted an objective study to determine the risks and benefits of the popular face lift procedure, which involves placing barbed threads under the skin and tightening them to pull up drooping facial tissues. Toward this end, the researchers evaluated 33 patients who had undergone the procedure. Of those 23 had other types of surgical procedures, with the remaining 10 having undergone thread-lifts only. A control group of 10 additional patients who had undergone other types of non-thread-lift rejuvenation procedures, including lipotransfer, chemical peels and facelifts, were randomly designated as controls.
Four independent facial plastic surgeons were selected to rate the “aesthetic improvement” of each patient using a scale of 0 indicating no change; 1, minimal improvement; 2, moderate improvement; and 3, considerable improvement. None of the surgeons knew which procedure the patients had received. While they saw improvements in all of the patients a month following the procedure, it was a different story at follow-up conducted anywhere from 12 to 31 months. The surgeons reported that the thread-lift-only group had the lowest scores, with improvement scores from 0.2 to 0.5. Those patients who had the thread-lift procedure with other procedures saw slightly higher improvements, with scores ranging from 0.5 to 1.4. Patients who had traditional procedures only received scores from 1.5 to 2.3.
Why such poor long-term results associated with thread-lift procedures? Abraham and her colleagues suggest that thread lifts don’t change the shift in facial volumes that occurs with aging and add that “excess skin left over after facial tightening is left in place.” The researchers also report that three patients had to have a thread removed, and complications such as visible knots and skin dimpling were seen in study participants.
In conclusion, the researchers write: “The thread-lift provides only limited short-term improvement that may be largely attributed to post-procedural edema(swelling)and inflammation. Our results objectively demonstrate the poor long-term sustainability of the thread-lift procedure. 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.”