How Likely Do Facial Implants Need Further Surgery After They Are Placed?

Q: Dr. Eppley, I have been looking into getting facial implants, specifically chin, cheek and jaw angle implants, now for quite some time. During my time researching these procedures I have come across many reputable sources of information, like yourself, and millions of internet experts professing to know the ‘truth’ of some sort of another regarding facial implants. Nowhere amongst all this are clear and unambiguous answers to some of the most basic questions. Hopefully you can provide these for me. My questions are as follows: 

1. If a chin, cheek or jaw angle implant is placed, the surgical wound heals, all is well and the patient loves the result several months after the operation, what is the likelihood that the implant will become infected years or decades later.

2. In your experience, if an implant is placed uneventfully can the patient then go on to live for decades having ‘forgotten’ about the implant, so to speak? I don’t want to have to come back to any implants later in life, I want to have my first cosmetic surgery and then forget about it forever.

3. Is the removal of an integrated Medpor jaw angle implant as difficult as it is said to be? Also, is there a silicone jaw angle implant that can provide the so called drop down effect?

4. There is a lot of confusion regarding cheek implants for men who want their cheekbones to flare out laterally. Do you think it is a deficiency in zones 1 and 2 of the malar-zygomatico complex that needs to be corrected in order to achieve the male model look? If so, are custom cheek implants capable of achieving this in the right individuals 

5. Individual implants will not make a person look radically different. Is this something that can happen, for good or ill, when several implants are placed at once?

A: In regards to your questions about facial implants ( cheek, chin and jaw angle implants), my answers are as follows:

1) The risk of implant infection is greatest in the perioperative period (first month or two after surgery) usually as a result of implant contamination during placement. Delayed facial implant infections are very rare. not impossible, but it would require contamination into the implant capsule like from a dental local anesthetic injection. Delayed infection risks are so rare that they are almost case reports for the literature.

2) If one has uncomplicated healing and is pleased with the size and symmetry of the facial implant result, having them will quickly become a ‘natural’ part of one’s anatomy and they will be forgotten as being a synthetic extension of one’s face.

3) Medpor implants,including those of the jaw angle, can be removed and I have removed many of them. They are much more difficult to remove than silicone implants but that is an issue of relativity. Silicone facial implants are so easy to remove that anything that is more adherent seems difficult.

New styles of vertical lengthening silicone jaw angle implants are now available. I designed them to provide a better implant material to that of Medpor. They are much easier to insert and replace/modify if necessary.

4) The concept of getting cheek implants to achieve any type of facial look is more ambiguous and harder to achieve that most would think. The cheek area is a complex four-dimensional structure and the interpretation of what is a pleasing shape is as variable as the anatomy of each person’s cheek bones. It frequently is not as simple as just pulling an implant off the shelf, regardless of its style and size, and the desired look is achieved. Even using custom designed implants is not a guarantee that the desired look can be achieved as the ability to translate a design to what it makes the outside of the face look like is not a mathematical one. Many men seek the so called ‘male model’ look which often but not always means a high angular skeletonized cheek look. You would have to define what cheek look you are after by using model pictures as examples. While all of them are models, many of their cheek shapes are quite different.

5) The more facial implants that are placed, if they are not properly sized, the more different one can look.

The one caveat I would add to all of this is a basic fact based on my very extensive experience with male (almost always young) facial skeletal augmentation surgery…such patients have a remarkably high revisional surgery rate which approximates 50% or greater in the first six months after surgery. These revisions are almost never because the implants have any medical problems but because many young men are impatient of the healing process and often are uncertain if they like the aesthetic outcomes of their procedures even if it is exactly what they thought they wanted. Thus, when you think about getting facial implants this revisional surgery issue is what you need to consider, not all the other concerns that you have mentioned which are fairly irrelevant compared to this consideration.

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana