What is an arm lift?
Arm lift surgery, technically known as Brachioplasty or “invisible arm lift surgery”, is a cosmetic procedure that reshapes your upper arm by removing excess skin and fat from the underside of your upper arms.
More specifically, it targets the area from your armpit to your elbow. The procedure is popular among people who have undergone significant weight loss and those with loose skin due to aging.
Who Is an Ideal Candidate for Arm Lift Surgery?
Typically, you are a suitable candidate for an arm lift if you:
- Have significant skin laxity in your upper arm due to losing substantial amounts of weight or getting older
- Have relatively stable weight
- Are not significantly overweight or obese
- Are a healthy individual and have no medical conditions that slow down the healing process or increase surgery and anesthesia risks
- Don’t smoke
- Have a positive outlook about the surgery
- Have realistic expectations
To know for sure if you are an ideal candidate for arm lift surgery, schedule a consultation visit with a Brachioplasty plastic surgeon. Ideally, the surgeon should be board-certified.
During the appointment, you will discuss, among other things, your surgical goals, medical conditions, drug allergies, current medications, and previous surgeries.
Be sure to ask questions and raise any concerns. Some questions you may want to ask your potential plastic surgeon include:
- Are you certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS)?
- What are the risks and complications associated with getting an arm lift?
- How will you handle these complications?
- What are my options if I find the cosmetic results unsatisfactory?
- Do you have an arm lift before and after photos I can look at?
Check out more questions you can ask during your consultation on this checklist prepared by ABPS.
Risks of Arm Lift Surgery (Brachioplasty)
Every surgical procedure comes with potential complications. Yours is to decide whether the benefits are worth taking the risk.
So before you undergo the arm lift surgery, you will be asked to sign consent forms stating you understand what the procedure entails, including the risks.
Here are the risks associated with an arm lift:
- Risks of anesthesia
- Pain that may persist
- Seroma (fluid buildup)
- Impaired wound healing
- Nerve/blood vessel/muscle damage
- Necrosis of subcutaneous fat tissue
- Unsightly scarring
- Changes in skin sensation
- Absorbable sutures failing to be absorbed, resulting in irritation, redness, and drainage
- Need for revisional surgery
Your surgeon will discuss these and other risks with you in detail before giving your consent.
How to Prepare for an Arm Lift Surgery
Once your plastic surgeon has evaluated you and concluded you are a good candidate for Brachioplasty, the surgeon’s office will schedule your arm lift surgery. In preparing for the procedure, your surgeon may ask you to:
- Stop smoking
- Have a medical evaluation or get lab tests done
- Start taking certain medications or adjust your current medications
- Avoid taking blood thinners such as aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs, and herbal supplements
Ensure to arrange transportation to and from the surgical facility or hospital. And to have someone stay with you for at least the first night after surgery.
Steps of an Arm Lift Procedure
In general, the steps of an arm lift procedure are as follows:
Depending on your doctor’s recommendation, you will receive local anesthesia/intravenous sedation/general anesthesia to prevent you from feeling pain during surgery.
Your plastic surgeon then makes incisions on the inside of your upper arm or the back of it. The incision may extend from your armpit to just above your elbow.
The exact placement and length of your incisions will depend on the amount and location of loose skin and fat deposits on your upper arm and your surgeon’s preference.
Your surgeon will proceed to remove the excess fat through liposuction or excising it. He/she will then excise the loose skin before tightening and smoothing the underlying supportive tissue using internal sutures.
Next, the remaining skin is stretched over the new contours of your upper arm and bound together with dissolvable sutures or traditional sutures. The latter are usually removed 1 to 2 weeks following your surgery.
The outcome of an arm lift, i.e., smoother, tighter contours, is visible immediately. However, you will likely experience swelling and bruising in the treatment area, which may obscure your initial results.
What to Expect During Your Recovery
After surgery, your incisions may be dressed or bandaged, and your arms wrapped in a compression garment or elastic band to reduce swelling. Surgical drains may also be placed under your skin to collect excess blood, pus, or other fluids.
Your plastic surgeon will give you instructions on how to care for the surgical site and drains. Additional instructions you will likely receive include: do not shower for the first 48 hours post-surgery and avoid raising your arm over your head for 2 to 4 weeks.
Your doctor will also prescribe medications to aid healing. These include anti-inflammatory drugs to ease swelling and pain, antibiotics to prevent infection, and pain medications to help manage pain.
He/she will also notify you of which signs of postoperative complications you should watch for, such as skin redness and fever.
Typically, you will return for your first follow-up visit within 48 hours. And as previously mentioned, if your incisions were closed using traditional stitches, they will be removed within one to two weeks after surgery.
There will be more follow up visits so your surgeon can ensure your incisions are healing well and there are no complications.
Arm lift surgery before and After photo illustration.
Arm Lift Surgery Results
The toned appearance of your upper arm following arm lift surgery is evident immediately. However, swelling and bruising may obscure your initial results.
The arm lift scars that result from the surgical incisions will remain but will fade with time just like scars from any other surgery.
The results of your arm lift will be long-lasting. Just ensure you follow your surgeon’s instructions and maintain a stable weight and a healthy lifestyle.
However, remember that as you age, your skin will naturally lose some firmness and elasticity. As a result, loose skin may again appear on the undersides of your upper arms.
How Much Does Arm Lift Surgery Cost?
Average arm lift cost: $4,550
Range Cost: $1,500 – $14,025
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons’ 2019 statistics, the cost of arm lift surgery is $4,550 on average. How much you pay for your procedure will depend on various factors, including:
- Surgeon’s fee, which will be determined by their experience and the extent of the procedure
- Anesthesia fees
- Operating room fees
- Medical tests
- Prescription drugs
- Facility location
Now, given that arm lift surgery is a cosmetic procedure, most health insurance will not cover the cost for arm lift surgery and any complication that may result from it.
However, many plastic surgeons offer their patients patient financing plans. The payment plan can, for example, be a formal agreement for monthly payments.
Alternatives to Arm Lift Surgery
Given that an arm lift procedure is invasive, it results in scarring and could lead to various complications.
For this reason, you may want to try other minimally invasive and non-invasive procedures first. Your options include:
- Arm liposuction: uses a cannula to loosen fat and suction it out to improve your arm contours.
- BodyTite: utilizes radiofrequency induced heat to remove fat deposits and tighten skin simultaneously.
- Thermage: another radiofrequency treatment that helps treat loose skin by stimulating collagen production.
- Ultherapy: uses concentrated ultrasound waves to penetrate the deep layers of the skin and heat up the underlying tissue. Consequently, encouraging the production of collagen and elastin, which help firm and tighten skin.
- SkinTyte: uses infrared light to improve skin laxity and sagging all over the body by stimulating collagen production.
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- Mayo Clinic Saff(July 31, 2020). Arm lift surgery. mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/arm-lift/about/pac-20392955.
- ASPS(2019). Plastic Surgery Statistics Report. plasticsurgery.org/documents/News/Statistics/2019/plastic-surgery-statistics-full-report-2019.pdf