Injury to the facial nerve during a face lift is a relatively rare but serious complication. A large body of literature has been dedicated toward bettering the understanding of the anatomical course of the facial nerve and the relative danger zones. Most of these prior reports, however, have focused on identifying the location of facial nerve branches based on their trajectory mostly in two dimensions and rarely in three dimensions. Unfortunately, the exact location of the facial nerve relative to palpable or visible facial landmarks is quite variable. Although the precise location of facial nerve branches is variable, its relationship to soft-tissue planes is relatively constant. The focus of this report is to improve understanding of facial soft-tissue anatomy so that safe planes of dissection during surgical undermining may be identified for each branch of the facial nerve. Certain anatomical locations more prone to injury and high-risk patient parameters are further emphasized to help minimize the risk of facial nerve injury during rhytidectomy.
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