An arm lift (brachioplasty) is a surgical procedure where excess skin is removed from the upper arm to tighten the arm, improve the contour and eliminate sagging skin. In some cases, liposuction is performed at the same time to reduce the size of the upper arm as well.
There is a smaller arm lift where only a small ellipse of skin is removed to hide the scar in the armpit (axilla), leaving no scar on the arm itself. Unfortunately, this allows for only a small improvement in the contour of the upper-most portion of the arm; the part of the arm that is normally covered with a short-sleeved shirt. Relatively few patients are candidates for this type of arm lift as they are looking for more than just a little improvement.
Most arm lift procedures are performed on patients who have lost a significant amount of weight and have a large amount of excess skin on their upper arms. In order to improve the contour in these patients, a large amount of skin must be removed from the arms extending from the axilla down to and sometimes past the elbow. The more skin that needs to be removed, the farther down the arm the scar extends.
The ‘L’ Brachioplasty
Many times, the skin removal does not stop in the armpit and proceeds down the side of the chest as well. In these cases, a scar is left on the on the sides of the chest as well as along the inner aspect of the arms so that it does not generally show in short sleeves when the arms are in a down position. This is commonly referred to as an ‘L’ brachioplasty because of the shape of the scar on the arm and chest.
In cases where there is excess fat as well as skin on the upper arms, liposuction can be performed at the same time as an arm lift to reduce the volume of the arm as well as tighten the skin. If the primary problem is fat with little or no excess skin, liposuction can be done on the upper arms without a simultaneous arm lift.
The surgery is performed under anesthesia as an outpatient. In larger cases, especially where liposuction is added to the procedure, a drain may be placed and is removed in a few days. A mild compression garment is generally worn for a few weeks to keep swelling down and improve the contour of the final result. We recommend taping over the incisions for several months to improve the scars.
There is not usually much pain with an arm lift, especially when local anesthetic is inserted during the surgery. This is known as tumescent plastic surgery, which costs no more than the standard procedure but can significantly improve recovery. An arm lift can be combined with other procedures such as breast implants or a tummy tuck so that you only have to go through one recovery period.