What Is a Brachioplasty?
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.
Is an Arm Lift Painful?
Arm lift surgery is performed using general anesthesia, which interrupts the transmission of pain signals to the brain. The anesthetized brain also does not register time and memory during the time that the patient is “asleep.”
Patients should expect some discomfort when their anesthesia begins to wear off. After this point, comfort is managed with a prescription painkiller, then an over-the-counter pain reliever.
Who Is A Good Candidate For A Brachioplasty?
Brachioplasty is ideal for patients who have an excessive amount of hanging skin and/or fat that does not respond to diet and exercise, who maintain a stable weight, who do not smoke, and who have realistic expectations for surgery. Patients must also be healthy overall, with no major medical conditions that can be affected by surgery.
How Should I Prepare For My Arm Lift?
Patients may prepare for their arm lift in various ways.
Before surgery, it is necessary to:
- Avoid tobacco and nicotine use. Smoking and other forms of tobacco and nicotine use can inhibit healing and increase the risk of surgical complications. Smoking must stop at least a few weeks before surgery.
- Avoid certain medications. Patients should inform their doctor about all medications and supplements they are taking. Some, particularly those that thin the blood, may need to be switched or stopped before surgery to prevent an increased risk of excessive bleeding.
- Arrange the necessary time off work. We suggest about two weeks.
- Pick up prescriptions ahead of time so they are at home the day of surgery.
- Arrange an escort for the day of surgery. This person or another loved one should stay with the patient for at least 24 hours.
- Plan what to wear the day of surgery and the first days of recovery. Tops should open in the front so the arms do not need to be raised overhead.
Before surgery, it is helpful to:
- Determine where recuperation will occur. Patients may prefer one room of the house that is equipped with a television, telephone, and other entertainment.
- Place extra pillows in the recuperation area. These will be used to elevate and support the arms when sleeping and resting.
- Complete all necessary projects at work and at home before surgery. This can help avoid stress during the recovery period.
- Prepare healthy meals ahead of time. Stock the refrigerator with healthy comfort foods that will assist with healing. Suggestions include low-sugar smoothies and protein shakes and low-sodium frozen dinners.
The Arm Lift Procedure
During brachioplasty, an incision is made along the inside of the upper arm that often spans the underarm to the elbow. Excess fat is removed, either by direct excision or by 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 is 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. Since it is a less invasive way to remove excess fat and tissue, it requires only a few small incisions near the underarm.
Can I Combine My Arm Lift With Other Procedures?
Many patients who undergo brachioplasty have lost a significant amount of weight, so it is not uncommon to see them combine various lift procedures. Common combinations include thigh lift, tummy tuck, or breast implant surgery. One exception to combination procedures may be a breast lift. In this instance, the breast lift and arm lift incisions may be too close in proximity to achieve the desired outcome. To ensure safety and a successful recovery, surgeons may perform these two procedures at different times.
Recovery From Arm Lift Surgery
Arm lift recovery spans a period of approximately six weeks. To facilitate optimal healing, patients should:
- Make sure to have assistance at home for at least 24 hours. Prescription pain medication and also fatigue from surgery can cause dizziness. Patients should at least be monitored when moving around at first. It may be necessary to have help with some basic tasks at first.
- Get out of bed slowly, sitting with the legs off the bed for a few minutes before standing.
- Begin walking as soon as possible, taking it slow. While it is important to move to support circulation out of the lower legs, it is vital to avoid strenuous activities.
- Avoid activities and positions that place direct stress on the surgical site for 4 weeks.
- Once prescription pain medication is stopped, the patient may resume driving as they are comfortable.
During the recovery period, patients can expect:
- Mild to moderate discomfort that lasts a few days. This is managed with prescription pain medication. Painkillers should be taken as directed rather than waiting to see “how bad pain gets.”
- Bruising and swelling are at their worst for the first 48 hours after surgery. These side effects can be managed by resting and sleeping with the arms elevated on pillows for the first two weeks of recovery.
- While patients may walk every day, they should take care not to increase heart rate excessively. Cardio activity may resume after approximately 4 weeks of healing. Heavy lifting must be avoided for up to 6 weeks.
- Dressings may be removed at the follow-up visit sometime during the first week of recovery. After this time, showering may resume. Care must be taken to pat the arms dry rather than rub the skin.
The results of brachioplasty are noticeable right away, even when the arms are still bandaged after surgery. That said, patients can expect swelling to obscure the final outcome of surgery for up to six weeks. After that time, the shape of the arms can continue to improve for several more months, as the skin and tissue naturally settle and tighten.
How Long Does My Results Last From An Arm Lift?
Arm lift surgery removes excess fat and skin to restore slimmer contours to the backs of the arms. Barring subsequent, significant weight gain and loss, we expect the results of arm lift surgery to last indefinitely. Aging continues to affect the skin over time, so the arms could look somewhat lax over time. However, this typically takes many years and is usually nowhere as dramatic as it was before brachioplasty.
Risks Of Arm Lift Surgery
In addition to the risks associated with any surgery, those related to an arm lift include the following:
- Loss of sensation
- 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.
Will There Be Scarring After My Brachioplasty?
During an arm lift, the incision is placed on the inside of the arm to disguise it, however it does create a permanent line.