A common procedure for people who have experienced weight loss, the arm lift or brachioplasty is a surgical procedure that reshapes and provides an improved contour to the upper arms and connecting area of the chest wall. The underside of the upper arm is reshaped from the armpit to the elbow, loose skin is tightened and excess fat removed, thus removing the “bat wing” appearance. Fluctuations in weight, growing older and heredity are some of the factors that cause arms to have a drooping, sagging appearance, which cannot be corrected through exercise.
Dictated by the patient’s skin quality and the extent of the excess underarm fat, surgical options will be discussed with your surgeon, who will help you make the right choice. Liposuction is often used during an arm lift and may also be used as an adjunct for fat removal in a standard brachioplasty. It is a procedure recommended for people whose skin has enough elasticity to shrink around the remaining tissues after the fat is removed. Tissue sagging will be more pronounced after fat is removed if the skin has poor elasticity.
The limited-incision brachioplasty is recommended for patients with loose, crepe-like skin in the lower arm area near the armpit and who do not have too much excess fatty tissue. If excess hanging skin is located close to the armpit, the surgeon may be able to pull up and tuck the excess skin into the armpit.
In the case of standard brachioplasty, the only option is complete removal of the arm flab if the excess skin extends like a bat wing from the armpit to the elbow. The extended brachioplasty is similar to the standard one, except that the incision is extended along the arm down to the body to include loose skin and fatty tissue that may be hiding under the arm area along the side of the chest wall.
Arm lifts are usually performed under general anesthesia and may take up to 3 hours. You should expect the following:
Before the surgery, your doctor will ask you to sign consent forms to ensure that you fully understand the procedure. Significant complications from upper arm lift surgery are infrequent and the procedure is usually performed without any major problems. All surgical procedures have some degree of risk and the common potential complications include:
These risks will be fully discussed prior to your consent. You can also help minimize certain risks by following the instructions and advice your surgeon provides you with, before and after the arm lift surgery.
Your surgeon will provide detailed preoperative instructions, answer any questions you may have and determine your fitness for surgery after taking a detailed medical history and performing a physical exam. During your arm lift surgery consultation be prepared to discuss:
Before your procedure, the surgeon will ask you in advance to:
Be sure to arrange for someone to drive you home after surgery and stay with you for at least the first night following surgery. Wear comfortable, loose clothing during the day of the surgery. For your safety during the operation, you will receive medications to keep you comfortable and various monitors will check your heart, blood pressure, pulse and the amount of oxygen circulating in your blood. You will be taken into a recovery area where you will continue to be closely monitored after the procedure is completed.
If you are in good general heath, have a positive attitude and realistic expectations, you are more likely a good candidate for this procedure. After losing a significant amount of weight and embarking on a program of vigorous exercise, you may find that you will have loose, hanging underarm skin that resembles bat wings. Although you can improve upper arm appearance with exercise, the underarm skin remains a problem that does not improve with exercise. Arm lift candidates include people who:
Scarring will be permanent, but should fade in time as improvements to scars may take around a year. You must also expect a degree of sagging in the future as you age. Brachioplasty will not stop your upper arms from sagging if you gain and lose a large amount of weight in the future.