It’s common to look in the mirror and focus on one’s puffy eyelids or “bags” under the eyes. We spend hundreds of dollars on exotic formulas we read about in fashion magazines and online, and usually these remedies are either short lasting or completely ineffectual. There’s really only one way to correct aging eyelid problems: surgery. I have to admit I was one of those ladies who could only see what I considered deep troughs under my eyes every time I looked in the mirror.
Finally I went to see Dr. Robert Hutcherson in Beverly Hills, a facial reconstructive surgeon recommended by a good friend. Advice to those contemplating such surgery: get a recommendation from someone you trust. Don’t go under the knife just from a glitzy ad in some fashion magazine.
Dr. Hutcherson has been specializing in facial reconstruction for 25 years, consulting with patients for hours prior to scheduling any type of procedure. He feels it’s mandatory to make sure whatever he advises is exactly what his patient anticipates. He listens to his patient’s complaints, he suggests various remedies and lets his patient determine to what extent he or she wants to proceed.
Unlike many plastic surgeons, Dr. Hutcherson focuses only on the area the patient is focused on. For instance if someone like me complains about under eye troughs, he won’t say “and by the way, how about a breast enlargement, while we’re at it?” However if the under eye problem requires doing another procedure to enhance the effect he will offer that option.
In my case, for instance, in order to fill in the troughs the doctor suggested taking fat from another area on my body and repositioning it under the eyes. One’s own body fat apparently lasts much longer than an artificial filler such as Juvederm or Restylane.
Another important subject Dr. Hutcherson will discuss prior to a patient signing on the dotted line is how long a recovery you should expect and the pre-op necessities….and there are a number of them.
Just to let you know what you’re in for prior to surgery: no aspirin, nicotine, vitamin C or E and other substances that can contribute to bleeding and bruising. They’re all detailed in a handout Dr. H provides. The patient must also undergo a physical by his/her internist and have pre-operative blood work and an EKG to make sure all’s well prior to surgery. A medical history is required as well. If the patient doesn’t have a history of blood clotting they’re prescribed Vitamin K a week before the procedure. This, says Dr. H, helps to thicken the blood and decrease bleeding during surgery and bruising afterwards.
On the day of surgery you can’t eat or drink anything for 8 hours prior to the operation, because you’ll be under anesthesia. You’ll have to arrange for a ride home or stay at an aftercare facility where a nurse will look after you for the first 24 hours. That is, If you can part with an additional 450-875 dollars for that TLC.
The procedure, by the way, takes about 2 to 2 ½ hours in total. After checking in that morning, the doctor will go over the procedure again and answer any last minute questions and take pre-op photos. These are to assist the doctor during surgery, as the injection of a local anesthetic changes the contour of the lower lid.
Dr. Hutcherson’s nurse, Lynn Campanero, will make you feel at ease, bringing you to the surgery area, part of Dr. Hutcherson’s suite, where you’ll change into a gown and be led into the operating room. The anesthesiologist starts the IV and the surgery gets underway. Just to let you know, the anesthesiologist’s fee is not included in the cost of the procedure. It runs about $875.
During the surgery Dr. H begins the process of repositioning the fat, freeing fat pads from the surrounding tissue, while leaving them connected to a base blood supply, then draping them across the tear trough and suturing them in place. Attachment to the base blood supply is necessary to ensure the fat pads remain viable. Fat repositioning avoids a hollow look and fills in the tear trough, creating a smooth contour. In the old days much more fat was taken out and no draping of the fat was performed which could lead to a hollow look after surgery. Excess fat is sometimes removed if necessary, and excess skin as well with a pinch technique and closed with special tissue glue. You won’t see any sutures after the procedure.
After surgery an ice mask is applied, and the patient recovers for about a half hour before being discharged. You’ll go home with lots of informative reading material including a post-op instruction sheet and eye ointment. You’ll need to take antibiotics, a mild steroid to reduce swelling and pain medication if needed. While there is definitely discomfort, there isn’t usually much pain associated with this procedure. The eye ointment, however, may cause some blurriness, and you have to use it 3-4 times a day.
You’ll be asked to use cold compresses on the eyes 20 minutes an hour during the day. This helps with both discomfort and swelling and bruising. One thing that was difficult for me was the need to sleep with my head elevated for a least a week to help with the swelling. No lying on your tummy! No going to the gym for awhile, lifting anything over 10 pounds or doing anything that involves the head being positioned below the heart.
Swelling and bruising can last up to 3 weeks with the final results not noticed for at least 2 months, while minor changes may take longer. The good news: it’s not usually necessary to repeat this type of lower eyelid surgery ever again, although you might need some attention to wrinkling of the skin down the line.
Dr. Hutcherson will see you the day after surgery, and then every week for several weeks, then more infrequently until you’re ready for your final post-op photos, in about 6 months. Then, voila!
People will come up to you and tell you how refreshed you look, comment on your lovely new hairstyle or words to that effect, having no clue that you’ve spent a little bit more than you would on new makeup or a salon treatment.
The cost of this procedure is 45-hundred dollars for both eyes, and no, it’s not covered by insurance since it’s cosmetic.
It’s recommended you rest and not go back to work for several days, and if you’re concerned about your appearance, at least a week, depending on how fast the swelling and bruising disappear.
Sun glasses help!
For more information you can call Dr. Robert Hutcherson at (310) 276-7012. He’s located at 9675 Brighton Way, Suite 410, Beverly Hills, CA 90210.