Brachioplasty (arm lift) is a surgical procedure performed to remove the loose, hanging skin that often develops on the underside of the upper arm as a result of aging, weight loss, or weight gain. Brachioplasty is ideal for patients who have an excessive amount of hanging skin and/or fat that does not respond to diet and exercise; maintain a stable weight; do not smoke, and have realistic expectations for surgery. Patients must also be healthy overall, with no major medical conditions that can be affected by surgery.
The Brachioplasty Procedure
During Brachioplasty, an incision is made along the inside of the upper arm; it often spans the underarm to the elbow. Excess fat is removed, either by direct excision or liposuction. Excess skin is trimmed away, and the arm’s underlying supportive tissue is tightened using internal absorbable sutures. Skin is then sutured back together; absorbable stitches may or may not be used to close the incision. Brachioplasty is performed under general anesthesia or intravenous sedation and, depending on the amount of skin and fat that are removed, takes 2 to 4 hours. Patients are able to return home the same day as surgery.
For a patient who needs only a small amount of skin and fat removed, a minimal incision arm lift may be performed. A less invasive way to remove excess fat and tissue, it requires only a few small incisions near the underarm.
Brachioplasty Before & After
Recovery From Brachioplasty
After Brachioplasty, patients typically experience swelling and bruising, as well as mild discomfort that can be managed with pain medication. Drainage tubes may be placed at the incision site to collect any excess blood or fluid for the first few days after surgery. Compression bandages are usually worn to promote proper healing. The results of Brachioplasty are visible right away, but become more apparent as swelling and bruising subside, which usually takes 2 weeks.
Risks of Brachioplasty
In addition to the risks associated with any surgery, those related to Brachioplasty include the following:
- Loss of sensation
- Permanent swelling
- Persistent pain
- Fat necrosis
- Fluid accumulation
- Nerve, blood-vessel, and/or muscle damage
The scar left by Brachioplasty is significant, although it fades over time.
Brachioplasty Frequently Asked Questions:
Gravity works relentlessly on the human body. Some areas are less able to withstand its pull than others. Your upper arms would be in that category. The skin and muscle tissue on our upper arms are under the constant pull of gravity. Plus, as we age, our muscles slacken somewhat are our skin thins, and becomes less firm. If you’ve gained and then lost a good deal of weight, these effects are all exacerbated.
Does this sound like your upper arms? It can get to the point where the skin that hangs beneath the upper arms moves back and forth with arm movement, an effect colloquially known as “bat wings.” When this is happening, it can make a woman avoid any fashions that leave her upper arms exposed. That works fine during our Salem winters, but that’s no way to go through a glorious Oregon summer.
An arm lift removes loose excess skin, tightens underlying muscles that have slackened, removes fat that is weighing down the skin, and generally returns the upper arms to how they looked in younger days. This gives you back the confidence to wear sleeveless fashions, spaghetti strap dresses, and the like.
Dr. Austin views every consultation as a free flow of information between the two of you. He encourages any and all questions throughout your meeting. You’ll get things started, detailing what you don’t like about your upper arms. You’ll go through the changes you’re hoping to make with this surgery and what you hope will be your final results.
Then it’s Dr. Austin’s turn. He’ll examine your arms to ascertain the degree of sagging and how much loose skin there is. He’ll get an idea of how much your muscles need to be tightened. He’s seeing if you need a full arm lift or if he can use only limited incisions near the armpit.
Once he decides on the best path for your situation, he’ll describe the procedure in detail. He’ll likely include some before and after photos of women with a situation similar to yours. He’ll walk you through recovery, and then he’ll list the potential risks involved.
When your session is finished, whether you decide to go ahead with your surgery or not, you should be well-versed in Brachioplasty.
The changes made by Dr. Austin with your upper arms are permanent. The excess skin he trims is gone for good, as is any fat he removes. He’ll tighten support muscles as needed. All of these changes are permanent.
That doesn’t mean you won’t have some slackening as you continue to age. That’s inevitable. But as long as you don’t gain and then lose a good deal of weight, your upper arms will never again become loose to the degree that predicated coming in for this surgery.
Patients can usually return to work in just a week or two. Obviously, this varies with the individual patient. If your work involves lifting, you’ll have to have others do that for you. It will be about 10 days before you can drive. For the first week, you should limit activity to just walking.
For the first month, you need to avoid any exercises that directly stress the area and engage your upper arm muscles. This involves all weight lifting with the arms. After one month you can start a cardiovascular activity, such as riding a stationary bike or brisk walking. You still need to wait on lifting or contact sports, however, for another two weeks. At six weeks you should be able to return to your normal exercise routines.
Because arm lifts are generally cosmetic procedures, they are deemed elective surgery and are not covered by health insurance. In extreme cases, where loose skin is creating issues with rubbing and rashes there is a possibility it could be covered, but this is not typical.
Really, any person with flappy loose upper arms is a great candidate for this surgery with Dr. Austin. That is not true, however, if the patient is 30 pounds or more over her ideal body weight. In those instances, Dr. Austin could make the changes to tighten the upper arms, but future weight loss would again create new sagging and looseness. If the patient is overweight, Dr. Austin recommends losing weight first before even considering an arm lift. That also makes the final results more rewarding and contoured.
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