An upper arm lift, or brachioplasty, reshapes the upper arm to tighten loose skin and remove fat that often creates a “bat wing” appearance under the arm. Removing the excess skin caused by weight loss or natural aging can tighten loose skin that extends from the underarm area to the elbow; liposuction is sometimes used in combination to achieve the best results. Every year, thousands of people undergo successful upper-arm-lift surgery and are pleased with the results.
When to Consider an Upper Arm Lift
If your weight is normal, but you feel your shape is marred by underarm laxity.
If you have lost a massive amount of weight and are left with excess upper-arm skin and fat that may resemble bat wings.
If you are willing to accept a scar in exchange for shapelier arms.
Are you a good candidate for an upper arm lift?
After losing a significant amount of weight and embarking on a program of vigorous exercise, you may find that you still have loose, hanging underarm skin that resembles bat wings. Although you can improve your upper-arm appearance with exercise, this redundant underarm skin remains a problem that does not improve with exercise. The following are some common reasons why you may want to consider an upper arm lift:
You have lost the weight you desire, but are left with redundant underarm skin.
You are an adult with significant upper arm skin laxity due to aging.
Your weight is relatively stable and you are not significantly overweight.
You are a healthy individual with no medical conditions that could impair healing or increase surgery risks.
You are a nonsmoker.
You are committed to a healthy diet and lifestyle.
If you are in good general health, have a positive attitude and realistic expectations, you are most likely a good candidate for this procedure.
How is a upper arm lift procedure performed?
Your surgeon will create markings on your elbows, arms and armpits. The location, length and direction of these incision lines will be dictated by the type of brachioplasty you will undergo.
You will receive either intravenous sedation or general anesthesia, based on your surgeon’s recommendation.
Your surgeon will make the necessary incisions to remove excess skin and fat.
The incisions may be completely concealed within the armpits or extended down the inside of the arms in the most inconspicuous locations possible.
Your surgeon may use liposuction as an adjunct to remove excess fat.
After the incisions have been made, your surgeon will remove the excess skin and fat and bring the incisions together to provide a firmer and smoother arm contour.
Finally, the skin is smoothed over the new contour of your arm.
Your surgeon will close the incisions carefully to minimize scarring. Your sutures may be placed beneath the skin, where they will be gradually absorbed by your body.
A sterile dressing and a compression garment will be applied and drains may be placed.
The goal of your aesthetic plastic surgeon and the entire staff is to help you achieve the best result and make your surgical experience as easy and comfortable as possible.
What are my options?
Your options will be dictated by your skin quality and the extent of excess underarm fat and skin. Your surgeon will help you make the right choice based on your anatomy and preferences.
Liposuction: Arm liposuction is an option for you if your skin has enough elasticity to shrink around the remaining tissues after your fat is removed. If your skin has poor elasticity, tissue sagging will be even more pronounced after fat is removed. Liposuction may also be used as an adjunct for fat removal in a standard brachioplasty procedure.
Limited-incision brachioplasty: If excess hanging skin is located close to the armpit, your surgeon may be able to pull up and tuck this excess skin into the armpit. This works best if you have loose, crepe-like skin in the lower inner arm area near the armpit and do not have too much excess fatty tissue.
Standard brachioplasty: If your excess skin extends like a bat wing from the armpit to the elbow, the only option is complete removal of the arm flab in a standard brachioplasty.
Extended brachioplasty: An extended arm lift is similar to a standard brachioplasty, except that the incision is extended along the arm down to the body to include loose skin and fatty tissue that might be just under the arm area along the side of the chest wall. Loose skin in that area is common in patients who have had massive weight loss.
What will my upper arm lift incisions and scars be like?
Upper arm lift scars vary depending on the amount of excess tissue you have and the elasticity of your skin. Even patients who undergo a standard brachioplasty, which results in larger scars, are usually quite satisfied with the results.
Because liposuction incisions are small, the scars are also small. Most liposuction scars fade and are barely perceptible over time.
Your scars will most likely be limited to the underarm areas.
Incisions are generally placed on the inside of the arm and may extend from the underarm (axilla) to just above the elbow.
The standard brachioplasty incision is extended along the arm down to the body to correct loose skin and fatty tissue under the arm area
The arm lift incision can extend from the elbow to the arm pit and sometimes to the side of the chest.
Recovering From Your Arm Lift
You should expect some swelling, bruising and mild discomfort after the procedure, but your arm should appear trim and toned almost immediately. Your surgeon can prescribe prescription pain medication to help alleviate this pain.
Swelling will peak two to three days after your arm lift, typically dissipating within two weeks. Elevating your arm with pillows can help reduce swelling and increase your 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.
It’s OK to 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.
Risks of Arm Lift
No surgery is risk free. Arm lift risks include:
- Anesthesia risks
- Loss of sensation
- Swelling of the hands
- Seromas (fluid-filled masses along the incision line)