San Diego — A method of performing noninvasive facelifts using a different type of suture filament combines elements of previous lifting techniques, but with a new twist, according to John H. Flynn, M.B.B.S. Dr. Flynn, president of the Australasian College of Cosmetic Surgery, calls the technique the SafFe lift (Secure Anchored Filaments for Facial Elevation).
"It's a development of the previously used featherlift with APTOS filament and the Des Fernandez technique using what is called loop sutures. My thread or filament is actually a hybrid of the barbed suture that's inserted with a loop technique," says Dr. Flynn, who first developed the idea about two years ago.
The new suture material is part of the key to the lift, Dr. Flynn says. "We use these special threads to capture or stabilize the lower cheek. Then I utilize a shorter, more stable fixation to elevate the entire cheek. There's a small incision placed in the temporal hairline. Through that, I provide the elevation or the lift. The way the filaments are inserted also gives up a mounding effect on the malar fat pad to give cheek prominence. The nature of the barbs allows them to engage the tissue. You scrunch it together, and you compress the tissue to give a mounding effect," he says, adding that the sutures do not need to be removed since they are made of Prolene (Ethicon), an FDA-approved permanent suture material.Dr. Flynn says he drew on several of the other non-invasive techniques in developing his own lift.
"The Saylan sling technique is very similar to the Giampapa lift. Their technique is that you anchor the thread in the mastoid behind the ear, anchor it on the chin and tie it on the other side so you have a sling for support which sharpens the angle under the jaw. The Des Fernandez method still uses a smooth suture. It's anchored at one end, which is looped so that the bottom end has got a fixation to the skin. In that sense, it's more like my SafFe filament," says Dr. Flynn, pointing out that the Des Fernandez version has an anchor and a loop, but no barbs. It is the barbs that define one of the distinguishing advantages of the SafFe technique, he says.
"The barbs actually engage the tissue and give a broad area of support because there's a greater surface area. The inflammatory response gets caught up in the barbs," Dr. Flynn says. "Those other techniques have a fixation at both sides and are a smooth thread, whereas my filament is located at the superior end in the skin itself, in an area that is capable of being lifted and elevated," he says.
Dr. Flynn noted that all of the noninvasive facelift procedures shared certain limitations: "The major disadvantage of any suture technique, no matter which thread or procedure, is that it doesn't remove any skin. You're limited in the amount of skin you can lift before you get bunching of the skin, and beyond a certain amount, the skin loses its ability to compensate for the new position."
Another problem is the time limitations inherent in suture lifts. He says his technique offers results that can last up to five years, while a traditional, surgical facelift offers results that last eight to 12 years.
Dr. Flynn has used his new suture suspension lift on more than 50 patients in the last two years and several other doctors in Australia are now using the same technique, having acquired the method from courses Dr. Flynn has been conducting. "I've also got some courses organized for Hong Kong, and there is some interest over here as well," he says.
Disclosure: Dr. Flynn has a patent pending for the suture threads described in this article.