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Arm Lift (Brachioplasty)

Arm Lift Quick Facts

  • Best Candidates: People who are seeking to eliminate sagging skin in the upper arms
  • Procedure Length: 2 hours
  • Inpatient/Outpatient: Usually Outpatient
  • Anesthesia: General or local with sedation
  • Results: Long-lasting
  • Procedures in 2020: 14,447 (source: American Society of Plastic Surgeons)

An arm lift is a cosmetic surgical procedure to reduce loose, sagging skin from the upper arm. This excess skin can be caused by significant weight loss or just from the effects of aging.

An arm lift (also called brachioplasty) can dramatically lift and reshape the upper arm to give you an improved body contour and a more youthger-looking appearance. The majority of arm lift patients successfully achieve an improved appearance and an increase in self-confidence.

The procedure information contained in this article will give you a good introduction to arm lifts. Schedule a consultation with a Top Plastic Surgeon to receive a medical examination and discuss your arm lift options.

Arm Lift Overview

People who have lost a substantial amount of weight due after bariatric surgery, after pregnancy or from diet and exercise can experience excess skin on different parts of the body. These changes become evident in the upper arms when the skin begins to sag and take on a "loose hammock" appearance, especially when the arms are raised. Loose upper arm skin can also be a natural result of aging as the skin begins to lose thickness and elasticity, underlying support fat thins out and levels of collagen in the skin decrease.

Removing sagging skin and excess fat from the upper arms can dramatically improve the appearance of your arms and provide a boost to your self-esteem. Your arms will appear more slim, smooth and youthful and you will probably feel much more comfortable wearing short sleeves, swimwear and other clothing that exposes the arms.

How an Arm Lift is Performed

During an arm lift (brachioplasty), the sagging skin and excess fat are removed and the remaining skin is tightened and stitched into place. The incision is made on the underside of the upper arm and may extend from the armpit to the elbow. Most surgeons use a curved or zigzag-shaped incision to reduce scarring. Any excess deposits of fat that are present are usually removed with liposuction.

Since the upper arms tend to accumulate a disproportionate amount of fat and skin, an arm lift is fairly extensive, usually taking about 2 hours to complete. The surgery is usually performed as an outpatient procedure, allowing patients to go home on the same day. General anesthesia is normally administered to put you to sleep for the duration of the procedure.


Best Candidates

The best candidates for arm lifts are people who are in good health and want to rejuvenate the appearance of their upper arms by removing loose, sagging skin.

Generally, the best candidates for an arm lift:

  • Are in good physical and psychological health.
  • Are well-informed about treatment options and have realistic expectations.
  • Want to improve their appearance by reducing loose, sagging skin and reshaping the upper arms.

Arm lifts have grown much more popular in the last few years. More than 14,000 procedures were performed in 2020, a 4,174% jump since 2000, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. This huge increase is a direct result of more people who are choosing body contouring after losing weight through bariatric surgery (extreme weight loss surgery) or by other means. People with excess upper arm skin because of aging are also good candidates.

Liposuction can be used to contour the arms if excess fat is present and the skin remains tight. However, an arm lift is the best option if the skin is loose and saggy.

If you believe that you may be a good candidate for an arm lift, a qualified plastic surgeon can evaluate your circumstances, explain anything about the procedure you don't understand, answer all of your questions and help you decide if the procedure is right for you.


Arm Lift Risks

Arm lifts carry the same risks as any surgery, which include infection, excessive bleeding and complications from the anesthesia. To reduce your risk, carefully follow all of your plastic surgeon's instructions, both before and after the procedure. Contact your surgeon's office immediately if you have any symptoms you believe may indicate a complication.

The most common risks associated with arm lift surgery (brachioplasty) include:

  • Blood clots
  • Excess fluid collection (seroma)
  • Pain or swelling beyond normal levels
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Numbness (usually temporary)
  • Infection
  • Adverse reaction to anesthesia
  • Dissatisfaction with results

The scars left by an arm lift are permanent and noticeable, extending from the armpit to the elbow. Your surgeon will attempt to minimize scarring during the procedure by using a curved or zigzagging incision. The scars are somewhat hidden on the underside of the arm and usually fade after a few months.


Arm Lift Costs

The national average surgeon/physician fee for an arm lift (brachioplasty) in 2013 was $3,729, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. This figure does not include other costs, such as a facilities charge or anesthesia. You should be provided with complete information on costs and financing options at the initial consultation with your doctor.

The total fee for an arm lift can vary depending on the region of the country, the extent of the procedure and your specific needs as a patient. As it is considered to be a cosmetic procedure, the cost of brachioplasty is usually not covered by health insurance.


Arm Lift Consultation

If you decide that you might benefit from an arm lift, the first step is to locate a qualified plastic surgeon and schedule a consultation. During this meeting, you will be examined by the doctor and discuss your options in detail. Be sure to ask any questions that you have about arm lifts and your expectations for the procedure.

The surgeon should fully address all of your questions and offer advice on how to achieve your desired results. He or she should give you the full details of the procedure, including the benefits, risks, costs and recovery time. Be sure to ask to see before and after photos of the surgeon's recent arm lift patients.

Be prepared to discuss your overall health and medical history. Bring a list of any vitamins and medications, both prescription and non-prescription, that you take. The doctor will also ask about existing medical conditions and allergies.

As the consultation concludes, you may wish to schedule your procedure, take some time to think or seek a second opinion. If you decide to proceed with the procedure, your plastic surgeon will provide you with specific instructions on how to prepare for your arm lift. These instructions will include guidelines for eating, drinking, and medications and vitamins to take or avoid before and after surgery.


Arm Lift Recovery

Normal symptoms experienced after arm lift surgery include soreness, fatigue and mild to moderate pain and swelling. Any pain should subside quickly and be controlled by your pain medication. Swelling usually peaks a few days after the procedure and diminishes over the next 3 weeks. Contact your plastic surgeon's office immediately if you experience any severe pain or swelling.

After an arm lift, you will probably wear a compression garment for about 2 weeks to help the skin adhere to the underlying tissues. A surgical drain may be used to remove excess fluids that collect at the site of the incision before being removed within a few days. Your stitches will dissolve or be removed in 1 to 2 weeks.

The important thing for the first few days after surgery is to take it easy, get plenty of rest and follow all of your post-operative instructions. Most patients are up and around the day after arm lift surgery and can return to work or resume most normal activities within a week or two. Your surgeon may ask you to begin walking during the first week to prevent blood clots from forming in the legs. More strenuous physical activity, such as heavy lifting and vigorous exercise, should be delayed for at least 2 weeks.