An arm lift (brachioplasty) for saggy upper arms – with or without liposuction – can help create a well-defined, trim and toned upper arm that complements your figure as well as your wardrobe. Today’s arm lift techniques are safer and the scars are much less conspicuous than they have been in the past.
Candidates for Arm Lift
An arm lift is one of the top four most popular plastic surgery procedures performed following massive weight loss, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. This is because people who lose massive amounts of weight tend to have significant amounts of fat hanging under their arms.
The soft tissue of the arm becomes lax, setting the stage for ptosis (sagging), otherwise referred to as the bat-wing appearance. Thin people, too, may have sagging upper arms due to the effects of aging and genetics. Even people who engage in regular exercise including Pilates and strength training cannot get rid of excess, sagging skin that develops in this area.
Preparing for your Arm Lift
Your surgeon should supply you with a list of pre-operative instructions to follow in the days and weeks leading up to your arm lift. These instructions may include quitting smoking as smoking can have deleterious effects on wound healing. Your surgeon will also ask you to stop taking certain medications such as aspirin, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and certain vitamins/homeopathic regimens that are known to increase the risk of bleeding.
Some doctors may also suggest that you take certain supplements before your surgery to reduce swelling and bruising. This may include arnica or bromelain. A high protein diet may also enhance the healing process. Talk to your doctor about what type of nutritional regimen is recommended before your arm lift.
The Arm Lift Procedure
An arm lift typically takes one to three hours depending on the extent of the surgery. It may involve local anesthesia with intravenous sedation – leaving you awake, but not totally aware – or general anesthesia.
Liposuction may be sufficient enough for people with smooth skin and just a small amount of flab. The more invasive total arm lift procedure may benefit people with larger areas of fat underneath the arms, poor skin quality and sun damaged skin.
To perform an upper arm lift, your surgeon will make incisions on the inside or back of your arm. Incisions may span from the underarm to just above the elbow. Some people may only require minimal incisions from the area where the inner, upper arm joins the armpit. This is known as a minimal incision arm lift.
You may be a candidate for a minimal incision arm lift if you have a small amount of extra skin located near the armpit. Others, such as people who have lost massive amounts of weight following bariatric surgery, may have more excess skin and will need an incision that runs from the elbow, along the arm pit and onto the side of the chest. Your incision pattern will vary based on the extent of the surgery and your surgeon’s preferred method of treatment.
After the incision is made, excess fat may be removed with liposuction. Excessive skin is then trimmed, tightened and sutured in place with absorbable sutures, or stitches that will be removed within one or two weeks of the surgery. Your skin is then smoothed over the new contour of your arm.
Recovering From Your Arm Lift
While there is some swelling and bruising, your new trim and toned arm will be apparent almost immediately after your arm lift. You may feel some mild discomfort right after the procedure. Your surgeon can prescribe prescription pain medication to help alleviate this pain.
Swelling peaks two to three days after your arm lift, typically dissipating within two weeks. Elevating your arm with pillows can help reduce swelling and increase comfort during recovery.
Dressings are typically applied to the incision. Many of the stitches will dissolve, but those that are not self-absorbing are usually removed within a week. Your surgeon may prescribe a compression garment to allow the skin to adhere to underlying tissues.
You can shower one week after the procedure, and most people can go back to work two to three weeks after the procedure. Your surgeon will likely tell you to avoid any strenuous exercise for one month, and to avoid heavy lifting for at least six weeks. Individual instructions vary.
After recovery from arm lift, some patients prefer to have additional cosmetic procedures to improve the arm’s appearance, particularly to remove unsightly hair. Various hair removal options are available for the forearm and upper arm areas.
Risks of Arm Lift
With every medical procedure there is a possibility of complications, which can cause a longer recovery period. Arm lift risks include:
• Anesthesia risks
• Loss of sensation
• Swelling of the hands
• Seromas (fluid filled masses along the incision line)
Choose a Qualified Plastic Surgeon
Choosing the correct surgeon can play a major role in how satisfied you are with the outcome of your body contouring procedure.
Consider viewing before-and-after photos of the doctor’s arm lift patients so you have a better idea of what you can expect. Many patients who seek arm lift may also be interested in other body contouring procedures, such as thigh lift or body lift. You can consult with a surgeon about these procedures during your visit. If you seek an arm lift because you previously suffered from obesity and have experienced massive weight loss, your bariatric surgeon may be able to recommend a highly-qualified plastic surgeon.