What is an arm lift or brachioplasty?
An arm lift (or, brachioplasty) is designed to address the baggy areas of the upper arms, from the armpit to the elbow. This is an area prone to significant flabbiness and loss of tone that we associate with aging and after dramatic weight loss. Unfortunately, despite one’s best efforts with diet and exercise, these areas are notoriously difficult to shake loose. Other methods of traditional contouring, such as liposuction, are usually ineffective in these patients. Thankfully, the arm lift is available to address the flab and tighten the skin of the upper arm while keeping the incisions hidden.
How is an arm lift performed?
An arm lift (or, brachioplasty) is performed through an incision placed along the inside of the upper arm. This incision usually starts in the armpit area, then extends toward the elbow or into the armpit itself, if necessary. The length of the incision is usually dictated by the degree of flabbiness and redundant skin present. Once the incision is made, the redundant fat and skin is then excised. Extensive tailoring is then performed to limit the length of scar. The scar itself is kept along the “inseam” of the upper arm so that it is well-hidden. The contour is touched up with liposuction to create an aesthetically pleasing form to the upper arm. A small drain may be placed at the end of surgery.
What is the recovery?
An arm lift (or, brachioplasty) can take between 2 and 4 hours to perform, depending on the degree of skin redundancy. It is routinely done in an outpatient setting. However, when combined with other procedures, such as a tummy tuck, breast reduction, or thigh lift, then an overnight stay in an aftercare facility is highly recommended. Long-acting local anesthesia is used in combination with general anesthesia to limit pain substantially in the postoperative period. You should have a friend or relative assist you in the first 24 hours when you go home. Your initial dressings will include gauze and either an elastic bandage or a compression sleeve. Any external stitches or drains (if used) will be removed during the first visit. A compression sleeve will need to be worn around the clock for the next 3 to 4 weeks.
Your arms will be bruised and swollen for the first week following surgery, however, pain is minimal. As with other body contouring procedures, you should plan on staying home for the first week, with very limited activities including walking, reading, and light duty around the house. Driving should be avoided during this time as well as heavy lifting or reaching above your head.
In 2 weeks, you may begin to gently increase your activity including more extensive walking, but avoid aggressive exercise or weight lifting. Running and other high impact activities are also to be avoided for 4 to 6 weeks.
There may be some diminished sensation along the inner part of the upper arm. Much of this will go away as the swelling subsides over the next 6 weeks. Occasionally, the decreased sensation may be permanent.
What are the risks and complications?
An arm lift (or, brachioplasty) is a relatively simple surgery, but it does take a trained aesthetic eye to limit the length and visibility of the scar and to produce an excellent contour. Basic risks include sensitivity or reaction to anesthesia, bleeding, or infection. A hematoma can be drained in the office with local anesthetic. An infection may require oral antibiotics and possibly open drainage, if it occurs. In more severe cases, a bad infection may require intravenous antibiotics and a brief hospitalization.
Scars are commonplace for any surgical procedure. In an arm lift, the scars can sometimes be quite extensive. They can be raised or can stretch or widen over time. Dr. Panossian has developed his own technique for improving the appearance of scars with a combination of products and timing that have provided fantastic results time and again.
Slight asymmetry is always a risk in plastic surgery. After an arm lift, there may be subtle differences between the arms in terms of scarring, shape, or decreased sensation. Once again, these are relatively rare occurrences in experienced hands. In inexperienced hands, injury to the nerves of the upper extremity can also occur, resulting in temporary or permanent weakness or numbness.
Dr. Panossian has vast experience in minimal-scar plastic surgery and will be happy to go over your options during consultation. His staff is also available at all times to answer your questions and address problems, should they arise. Call today for a consultation.