Arm lift surgery is the solution for what is commonly known as the “batwing deformity.” During this operation, a surgeon removes the loose skin and tissue and sews it back up again. The incision is typically a long T- shaped one that extends from just beneath the underarm all the way to the underside of the elbow.
Mainly natural aging causes batwings, with gravity being the main culprit when it comes to causing underarm tissues to droop. With aging often comes either a loss of supporting fat tissue or a loss of muscle tone, but in either case each has the same effect of sagging upper arm skin due to weight loss. Dieting worsens the condition and exercise has very little effect when it comes to tightening up loose skin beneath the upper arms. Sagging underarm tissue can also be caused by extreme weight loss (for instance after a major operation) or by your weight gain and loss for years and years. The operation may also be performed on individuals who simply feel that the size or texture of their upper arms does not match the proportions of the rest of their body or who feel that their upper arms are inordinately large compared to the size of their lower arms and wrists.
Questions & Answers
What is an arm lift?
An arm lift, or brachioplasty, is a surgical procedure that:
- Reduces excess sagging skin that droops downward
- Tightens and smoothes the underlying supportive tissue that defines the shape of the upper arm
- Reduces localized pockets of fat in the upper arm region
Fluctuations in weight, growing older, and heredity can cause your upper arms to have a drooping, sagging appearance. This is a condition that cannot be corrected through exercise.
Arm lift surgery may be right for you if the underside of your upper arms are sagging or appear loose and full due to excess skin and fat.
Arm lift cost
Your cost will be based on your individual plan and procedure.
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Arm lift surgery costs may include:
- Anesthesia fees
- Hospital or surgical facility costs
- Medical tests
- Post-surgery garments
- Prescriptions for medication
- Surgeon’s fee
When choosing a board-certified plastic surgeon for an arm lift, remember that the surgeon’s experience and your comfort with him or her are just as important as the final cost of the surgery.
Arm lift candidates
In general, arm lift candidates include:
- Adults with significant upper arm skin laxity
- Adults of any age whose weight is relatively stable and who are not significantly overweight
- Healthy individuals without medical conditions that impair healing or increase risk of surgery
- Individuals with a positive outlook and realistic expectations
Arm lift recovery
During your recovery from arm lift surgery, dressings or bandages may be applied to your incisions, and your arms may be wrapped in an elastic bandage or a compression garment to minimize swelling following surgery.
A small, thin tube may be temporarily placed under the skin to drain any excess blood or fluid.
You will be given specific instructions on how to care for the surgical site and drains, medications to apply or take orally to aid healing, specific concerns to look for, and when to follow up with your plastic surgeon.
Be sure to ask your arm lift surgeon specific questions about what you can expect during your individual recovery period:
- Where will I be taken after my surgery is complete?
- What medication will I be given or prescribed after surgery?
- Will I have dressings/bandages after surgery? When will they be removed?
- Are stitches removed? When?
- When can I resume normal activity and exercise?
- When do I return for follow-up care?
Arm lift before and after results
The smoother, tighter contours that result from arm lift surgery are apparent almost immediately following your procedure. Initial results will be obscured by swelling and bruising, and a scar will remain where the incision was made.
Although good results are expected from your procedure, there is no guarantee. In some situations, it may not be possible to achieve optimal results with a single surgical procedure and another surgery may be necessary.
The results of arm lift surgery will be long lasting, provided that you maintain a stable weight and general fitness. As your body ages, it is natural to lose some firmness, but most of your improvement should be relatively permanent.
Following your physician’s instructions is essential to the success of your surgery.
It’s important that the surgical incisions are not subjected to excessive force, swelling, abrasion, or motion during the time of healing. Your doctor will give you specific instructions on how to care for yourself.
Arm lift procedure steps
An arm lift procedure includes the following steps:
Step 1 – Anesthesia
Medications are administered for your comfort during arm lift surgery. The choices include intravenous sedation and general anesthesia. Your doctor will recommend the best choice for you.
Step 2 – The incision
Incision length and pattern during arm lift surgery depend on the amount and location of excess skin to be removed, as well as the best judgment of your plastic surgeon.
Incisions are generally placed on the inside of the arm or on the back of the arm, depending on the surgeon’s preference, and may extend from the underarm (axilla) to just above the elbow. Excess fat may be directly excised or treated with liposuction.
Depending on your specific condition, incisions may be more limited. Then, underlying supportive tissue is tightened and reshaped with internal sutures. Finally, the skin is smoothed over the new contour of your arm.
Inner arm incision
Back of arm incision
Step 3 – Closing the incisions
Your incisions will be closed either with absorbable sutures, or stitches that will be removed within one to two weeks following your arm lift.
Step 4 – See the results
The smoother, tighter contours that result from brachioplasty are apparent almost immediately following your procedure, although there will likely be swelling and bruising. Get more information about arm lift surgery results under the question above.
Arm lift risks and safety information
The decision to have plastic surgery is extremely personal, and you’ll have to decide if the benefits, risks and potential complications of arm lift surgery are acceptable.
You will be asked to sign consent forms to ensure that you fully understand the procedure.
Arm lift surgery risks include:
- Anesthesia risks
- Poor wound healing
- Unsightly scarring
- Fluid accumulation (seroma)
- Damage to deeper structures such as nerves, blood vessels and muscles
- Fatty tissue under the skin might die (fat necrosis)
- Numbness or other changes in skin sensation
- Pain, which may persist
- Sutures may not absorb, but spontaneously surface through the skin, causing irritation, drainage and redness
- Possible need for revisional surgery
These risks and others will be fully discussed prior to your consent. It’s important that you address all your questions directly with your plastic surgeon.
Your arm lift consultation
During your arm lift surgery consultation be prepared to discuss:
- Your surgical goals
- Medical conditions, drug allergies and medical treatments
- Current medications, vitamins, herbal supplements, alcohol, tobacco and drug use
- Previous surgeries
Your arm lift surgeon will also:
- Evaluate your general health status and any pre-existing health conditions or risk factors
- Take photographs
- Discuss your options
- Discuss likely outcomes of arm lift surgery and any risks or potential complications
Be sure to ask questions. To help, we have prepared a checklist of questions to ask your arm lift surgeon that you can take with you to your consultation. (see tab titled “Questions to ask your arm lift surgeon”)
It’s very important to understand all aspects of your arm lift procedure. It’s natural to feel some anxiety, whether it’s excitement for your anticipated new look or a bit of preoperative stress. Don’t be shy about discussing these feelings with your plastic surgeon.
Preparing for arm lift surgery
In preparing for arm lift surgery, you may be asked to:
- Get lab testing or a medical evaluation
- Take certain medications or adjust your current medications
- Stop smoking
- Avoid taking aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs and herbal supplements as they can increase bleeding
Arm lift surgery may be performed in an accredited office-based surgical facility, ambulatory surgical center, or a hospital. Be sure to arrange for someone to drive you to and from surgery, and to stay with you for at least the first night following surgery.
Brachioplasty words to know
- Arm lift: A surgical procedure, also known as brachioplasty, to correct sagging of the upper arms.
- Axilla: The underarm area.
- Brachioplasty: A surgical procedure, also known as arm lift, to correct sagging of upper arms.
- General anesthesia: Drugs and/or gases used during an operation to relieve pain and alter consciousness.
- Hematoma: Blood pooling beneath the skin.
- Intravenous sedation: Sedatives administered by injection into a vein to help you relax.
- Liposuction: Also called lipoplasty or suction lipectomy, this procedure vacuums out fat from beneath the skin’s surface to reduce fullness.
- Local anesthesia: A drug injected directly to the site of an incision during an operation to relieve pain.
- Skin laxity: Degree of loose skin.
- Sutures: Stitches used by surgeons to hold skin and tissue together.
Questions to ask your arm lift surgeon
Use this checklist as a guide during your arm lift surgery consultation:
- Are you certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery?
- Were you specifically trained in the field of plastic surgery?
- How many years of plastic surgery training have you had?
- Do you have hospital privileges to perform this procedure? If so, at which hospitals?
- Is the office-based surgical facility accredited by a nationally- or state-recognized accrediting agency, or is it state-licensed or Medicare-certified?
- Am I a good candidate for this procedure?
- What will be expected of me to get the best results?
- Where and how will you perform my procedure?
- What surgical technique is recommended for me?
- How long of a recovery period can I expect, and what kind of help will I need during my recovery?
- What are the risks and complications associated with my procedure?
- How are complications handled?
- How can I expect my arms to look over time?
- What are my options if I am dissatisfied with the cosmetic outcome of my arm lift?
- Do you have before-and-after photos I can look at for this procedure and what results are reasonable for me?
Choose an arm lift surgeon you can trust
Arm lift surgery involves many choices. The first and most important is selecting a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) surgeon you can trust.
- ASPS member surgeons meet rigorous standards:
- Board certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery® (ABPS) or in Canada by The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada®
- Complete at least six years of surgical training following medical school with a minimum of three years of plastic surgery residency training
- Pass comprehensive oral and written exams
- Graduate from an accredited medical school
- Complete continuing medical education, including patient safety, each year
- Perform surgery in accredited, state-licensed, or Medicare-certified surgical facilities
Do not be confused by other official sounding boards and certifications.
The ABPS is recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), which has approved medical specialty boards since 1934. There is no ABMS recognized certifying board with “cosmetic surgery” in its name.
By choosing a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, you can be assured that you are choosing a qualified, highly trained plastic surgeon who is board-certified by the ABPS or The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.
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