A Stitch in Time
Lear's, November 1, 2001
Reporting on new surgical techniques.

Cosmetic surgery is out of the closet. Gone are the days of the Lockheed facelift, that taut, pulled-back look so named because it appeared that the unfortunate recipient was standing in back of a jet engine. Or the Queen Elizabeth I look, when the facelift veteran's hairline had receded so far back that she looked like the royal doyenne during the heyday of high foreheads. Now surgeons rhapsodize over the naturalness of the results they can achieve, claiming that they can tailor their procedure precisely to a woman's facial structure and her aesthetic sensibility. How a cosmetic surgeon achieves this end, however, is the subject of much heat and hubris in the field: Some believe that the fewer changes made, the better; others feel that to get a really satisfactory result, more complicated procedures are essential.

On the East Coast, as Michelle Copeland, a plastic surgeon at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York says, "Our object is to have someone say to the patient, 'Gee, you look well rested,' not 'Who are you?'"

Dr. Copeland has been working on a new technique called a neck lipectomy, which can be performed by making only a 1 1/2 inch incision, under the chin. After removing fatty deposits with liposuction, she sutures drooping muscles that had separated from underlying tissue back to their original position. The elasticity of the skin enables it to "redrape," or retract to its presagging state and adhere to the newly sculpted muscles. The procedure can be performed on a Thursday and the patient can be back at work (with a little makeup) by Tuesday.