What is an Arm Lift?
An Arm Lift (Brachioplasty) is a surgical procedure that removes loose and sagging skin on the underside of the arms. The extent of skin removal can be limited to the upper arm or can stretch from the forearm to the armpit and onto the chest wall depending on how much extra skin is present. If there is excess fat present, it will also need to be removed in order to assist with contouring the arm well.
Who is a Good Candidate for an Arm Lift?
Patients who are good candidates for Arm Lifts/Brachioplasties typically are healthy and have minimal to no medical problems. At minimum, they should maintain a stable, relatively low weight, but ideally, they should diet and exercise to get to their lowest possible weight. They should not smoke in order to minimize the risk of wound healing problems after surgery. They must have realistic expectations as the results are often limited by the anatomy and the amount of residual fat left on the arms.
Often, patients who require Arm Lifts are those that have had bariatric (weight loss) surgery, and now have deflated skin after the fat has gone away. These patients should wait until they have reached their lowest weight after their gastric sleeve/gastric bypass surgery before getting a brachioplasty in order to get the best results. They should also continue any bariatric medications and vitamins they were prescribed after surgery.
How Do I Prepare for an Arm Lift?
Typically, to get ready for your Arm Lift, you will need to get medical clearance from your doctor. Labs will often be required, including a complete blood count (CBC), basic metabolic panel (BMP), blood clotting tests, and an EKG.
We may ask you to cleanse your body with an antiseptic wash for several days prior to surgery. Any jewelry on the arm or chest region should be removed. You should also quit smoking 6 weeks prior to surgery until 6 weeks after surgery to minimize complications. (Better yet, quit for good!)
Ideally, you should diet and exercise to reach your lowest attainable weight and maintain it. You’ll have a good idea if you can maintain it long term if you can keep it stable for a minimum of 3 months. The best results are obtained in those patients with the lowest body fat percentage. However, good results can still be achieved in patients with a moderate amount of arm fat. Dr. Nguyen will evaluate you and make recommendations as to the best result that can be achieved for your anatomy.
What is Involved in an Arm Lift?
In a full Arm Lift, an incision is made on the inside (medial) and posterior arm from the elbow (or just below it) up to the armpit. Occasionally, the incision can be extended onto the lateral chest wall to remove excess skin there if present. Direct excision or liposuction may be used to help remove any excess fat in the area and contour the arm. The excess skin is then removed, and the skin edges are sewn together with absorbable sutures.
You may have drains placed that come out along the lower arms. These will help prevent any fluid from building up in your arms after surgery. You will be placed in a garment after surgery to protect your incisions and to help reduce swelling.
A mini-Arm Lift may be performed for patients who only have a small amount of excess skin and fat in the upper arm. Much smaller incisions are used and may be limited to the axilla/armpit area only.
Dr. Nguyen will take the time to discuss the length of incisions and the amount of fat removal that will be right for you.
What is the Recovery from an Arm Lift?
Patients usually go home the same day after an Arm Lift. You are asked to sleep with your arms elevated on 2-3 pillows for 1-2 weeks to help with swelling. Drains are usually removed within 1-2 weeks after the procedure once drainage has decreased.
The arms are wrapped with ACE wraps from the hands all the way up to the shoulders to reduce swelling, to prevent edema in the hands and forearms, and to take tension off of the incisions. Patients will need to replace these daily and often ask family members to help.
Patients may complain of soreness for 1-2 weeks. Swelling and bruising are typically present for 2-3 weeks. Full healing should occur by 6 weeks after surgery. Heavy duty lifting and work should be avoided for 6 weeks. Most patients can return to light duty work within 2 weeks.
To access full postoperative instructions, please click here.
What are the Risks of an Arm Lift?
Risks from a Brachioplasty include bleeding and infection. Infection is very rare; patients are given an antibiotic after surgery to help prevent them. Rare complications can also include nerve damage, which may cause temporary (or rarely permanent) numbness in the forearm. It is important not to smoke or be around smokers before surgery or during the healing process as it may increase the risk of skin necrosis (death), yielding a poor overall result. Risks can be minimized by adhering very closely to the prescribed postoperative instructions as given by your surgeon.
What Can I Expect from an Arm Lift?
Arm Lifts can be remarkably transformative procedures. Generally, they will immediately improve your sagging arm skin and decrease the amount of fat present. Some swelling will be present after surgery and improves over 2-3 weeks.
The scars are significant, often extending from the elbow to the axilla. However, they generally fade and improve with time. Patients must be diligent about wearing their garments and keeping their arms wrapped in order to minimize any hypertrophic or widened scars. Silicone gel or compresses may improve results.
Always be sure to consult with a Board Eligible or a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon to determine if getting an Arm Lift surgery is right for you! Dr. David Nguyen specializes in post-bariatric (massive weight loss) patients and would be happy to see you in consultation to walk you through the process and discuss your results. Call 657-900-5055 for a free consultation today!