Pretrichial Brow Lift Treatment & Management

Updated: Jan 25, 2019
  • Author: S Valentine Fernandes, MBBS, MCPS, FRCSEd, FRACS, FACS, LLB; Chief Editor: Zubin J Panthaki, MD, CM, FACS, FRCSC  more...
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Intraoperative Details

The operation is performed under monitored or general anesthesia. The hair is secured with rubber bands to expose the incision site; shaving is not necessary. A mixture of 1% Xylocaine and 1:100,000 adrenaline is injected along the incision site after appropriate cleaning and draping.

The scalpel incision follows 2 mm behind the hairline in the frontal region and extends into the hair in the temporal region. The lateral extension joins the upper extent of the facelift incision if a facelift is performed at the same time. The incision is beveled posteroanteriorly. Injudicious cautery use for hemostasis damages hair follicles with risk of alopecia.

The incision is deepened to the subgaleal plane in the frontal region. Undermining at this level in this region is relatively avascular. In the temporal region, the incision is deepened to the level of the deep temporal fascia and undermining is performed at this subtemporoparietal fascia/supra deep temporal fascia level. At or around the region of the anterior temporal hairline, transition is affected between the subgaleal plane anteriorly and the supra deep temporal fascial plane laterally. This affords maximum protection to the frontal division of the temporal branches of the facial nerve.

Anteroinferiorly, the supraorbital rim is identified along with the supratrochlear and supraorbital nerves. The former nerve may be hidden by the corrugator supercilii muscles, but gentle vertical spreading dissection with scissors displays its presence. The corrugator supercilii and procerus muscles are transected using bipolar electrocautery.

Some authors advise weakening the frontalis muscle. Exercise caution, as trauma may occur to both the motor and sensory nerves. Lateral to the supraorbital nerves, the periosteum may be incised and the dissection carried subperiosteally to expose the orbital fat. The rim periosteum is freed in this region to the level of the zygomaticofrontal suture. This allows better placement of the lateral hooding of the upper eyelid.

The entire flap is advanced posterocephalically and the excess trimmed to close without tension. The lateral eyebrow position is initially set with a single staple on each side. In the absence of excessive bleeding, no drains are used.

The incision is closed with 4-0 Dexon to the galea. For scalp skin, 6-0 Prolene sutures are used in the frontal region, and staples are used in the hair-bearing region. A light pressure dressing is applied.

A more conservative approach has been described by Aldo. [3]


Postoperative Details

Oral acetaminophen may be used for pain, which is usually minimal.



The wound is examined on the first postoperative day. Sutures are removed on the fifth postoperative day. Staples may be removed on the 10th postoperative day.

For excellent patient education resources, see eMedicineHealth's patient education article Black Eye.



No surgeon or operation is devoid of complications. Encountered complications specific to the brow lift operation may be enumerated as follows:

Hematoma formation

Minor or major hematomas may occur, usually within 12 hours of operation. Expanding ecchymosis, edema, and pain provoke suspicion. Neglected hematomas may cause skin necrosis and scarring. Minor hematomas may be dealt with by aspiration with an 18-gauge needle, while major hematomas may require flap re-elevation and exposure of the bleeder for appropriate action.


Because of the excellent blood supply, infection is rare. Appropriate antibiotic coverage is indicated should infection occur.

Facial nerve impairment

The frontal division of the temporal branches of the facial nerve provides motor innervation to the forehead. Unilateral trauma causes brow asymmetry at rest and aggravation of this asymmetry on volition. Immediate facial nerve palsy may be related to the local anesthesia. Neurapraxia may last several months, and aesthetic relief during this time may be provided by botulinum injection on the contralateral side. If recovery fails, a contralateral neurectomy may be considered after 18 months.

Sensory nerve impairment

The supratrochlear and supraorbital nerves, which are divided at the site of incision by necessity, provide sensory innervation. This causes numbness cephaloposterior to the incision, which tends to resolve in 3-6 months. Be aware of avoiding permanent damage to these nerves, particularly around the orbital rim, during surgery.


Alopecia may be temporary or permanent. Avoiding injudicious cautery to the incision edges and thus damage to the skin follicles may reduce permanent alopecia. Excessive skin tension closure also may contribute to this complication.

Eye complications

Postoperative lagophthalmos predisposing to corneal ulceration is a disaster. Careful preoperative assessment is necessary, especially if a concomitant upper lid blepharoplasty is planned. [4, 5] It is advisable to do the "brow before bleph" to plan exactly how much eyelid skin to excise without risk of ectropion.

Unsightly scarring

Undue tension on the incision leads to an unsightly scar that may need aesthetic correction.

Contour irregularities

Contour irregularities may arise from overzealous resection of soft tissue, particularly the frontalis muscle. Filler substances may correct the problem.


Outcome and Prognosis

With appropriate patient selection, satisfactory outcomes are high. Failure to detect a patient with unrealistic expectations preoperatively results in an unhappy patient regardless of surgical results.

In a retrospective study of 31 patients who underwent forehead rejuvenation with either an endoscopic (17 patients) or pretrichial (14 patients) technique, Guyuron et al found that only the pretrichial method resulted in long-term hairline stability. Although there was no significant difference in hairline measurements between the endoscopic and pretrichial groups within 1 year postoperatively, examination of photographs 8 years or more postoperatively demonstrated significant hairline recession in the endoscopic patients, while those who underwent the pretrichial procedure showed a stable hairline position. Eleven control subjects (cosmetic surgery patients who did not undergo forehead rejuvenation) also showed long-term hairline recession. [6]


Future and Controversies

The endoscopic brow lift increases the vertical dimension of the forehead, thus is unlikely to compete for some time with the pretrichial brow lift operation in patients who insist on no alteration to this vertical height.