Controversy persists regarding the relationship of the superficial facial fascia (SMAS) to the mimetic muscles, deep facial fascia, and underlying facial nerve branches. Using fresh cadaver dissection, and supplemented by several hundred intraoperative dissections, we studied facial soft-tissue anatomy.
The facial soft-tissue architecture can be described as being arranged in a series of concentric layers: skin, subcutaneous fat, superficial fascia, mimetic muscle, deep facial fascia (parotidomasseteric fascia), and the plane containing the facial nerve, parotid duct, and buccal fat pad. The anatomic relationships existing within the facial soft-tissue layers are (1) the superficial facial fascia invests the superficially situated mimetic muscles (platysma, orbicularis oculi, and zygomaticus major and minor); (2) the deep facial fascia represents a continuation of the deep cervical fascia cephalad into the face, the importance of which lies in the fact that the facial nerve branches within the cheek lie deep to this deep fascial layer; and (3) two types of relationships exist between the superficial and deep facial fascias: In some regions of the face, these fascial planes are separated by an areolar plane, and in other regions of the face, the superficial and deep fascia are intimately adherent to one another through a series of dense fibrous attachments.
The layers of the facial soft tissue are supported in normal anatomic position by a series of retaining ligaments that run from deep, fixed facial structures to the overlying dermis. Two types of retaining ligaments are noted as defined by their origin, either from bone or from other fixed structures within the face. The significance of the retaining ligaments lies in the fact that as people age, the support from this ligamentous system becomes attenuated, leading to many of the stigmata of the aging face, such as the development of jowling and prominent nasolabial folds.
The anatomic changes that occur in the aging face are delineated. With an adequate understanding of the anatomic changes that occur with aging, rhytidectomy can be approached as a reconstructive procedure, restoring facial soft tissue to its original anatomic state and location.
Department of Surgery (Plastic) at the University of Miami School of Medicine, Miami, Fla.