General Information


What is an Arm Lift and who is a candidate for the procedure?

An arm lift, also known as a brachioplasty, is a surgical procedure designed to remove sagging, excess skin under the upper arms that may be due to significant weight loss or loss of elasticity as a result of the aging process. Arm lifts are not recommended as a weight loss procedure, and work best on patients who are not significantly overweight.

The procedure may be performed after a weight loss program to address the issue of sagging skin once the target weight is achieved. Candidates for this procedure should be in good general health, non-smokers and realistic about their expectations for the cosmetic surgery. Those with chronic health conditions should consult with a cosmetic surgeon to decide whether an arm lift is the right choice for them.

What are the different types of Arm Lift procedures available?

Arm lift procedures vary somewhat based on how much skin removal and reconstruction is required to achieve the desired result. Differences will mostly revolve around the size and location of the incision.

•    Upper Arm Lift

This procedure involves an incision that either runs the full length of the inside of the upper arm, or at the back of the arm from the armpit to the elbow. This procedure removes excess sagging skin of the upper arm and improves the contour of the arm. In some cases, an upper arm lift may be combined with liposuction for best results. The fat is suctioned away from the area first, and then the excess skin is removed and the incision is closed.

•    Mini Arm Lift

This procedure is very similar to the upper arm lift, but less skin must be reshaped and the size of the incision is smaller and located in the armpit area. This procedure is less common than the upper arm lift, since the majority of patients require more contouring and reshaping for the best results.

How is the procedure performed and what is the recovery like?

Before a brachioplasty is scheduled, the patient will meet with the doctor for an initial consultation. During this appointment, the patient's complete medical history will be reviewed and questions will be asked about medications and lifestyle choices that could affect the safety and outcome of the procedure. These might include pre-existing health conditions, prescription and over the counter medications, vitamin supplementation, alcohol and nicotine use and previous surgeries.

Patients will also be asked about their expectations for the procedure to ensure that they will be satisfied with the results. Patients will usually be asked to stop smoking well in advance of the procedure, and refrain from taking any sort of aspirin or anti-inflammatory medications that could increase the risk of bleeding during the procedure.

In most cases, an arm lift is done as an outpatient procedure. A general anesthesia is frequently used, although some patients may have the option of IV sedation instead. The entire procedure takes an average of about two hours.

First, the incision is made and if liposuction is to be completed during the procedure; it will be done at this time. Next, the surgeon will apply sutures to tighten the underlying tissue and the skin will be closed, forming a new contour to the upper arm. The doctor may use sutures that will eventually dissolve on their own, or stitches that will need to be removed within a week or two after surgery.

Although most patients will go home the same day as the procedure, it is important to have someone available to drive and help out overnight. Dressings will be applied to the area, and drains may be placed to allow fluids and blood to drain temporarily. Patients will usually be able to return to work within a week or two and complete recovery is expected within two to six weeks.

What are the risks involved with an Arm Lift?

Brachioplasty, like any type of surgical procedure, does not come without risks. These risks might include bleeding and infection at the incision site, blood clots, skin discoloration and swelling, and changes in skin sensation. If a general anesthesia is used, there are also risks associated with the medication given.

This procedure does not come without a significant amount of scarring, which surgeons will try to place in an inconspicuous area of the arm. To reduce risk during a brachioplasty, patients should choose a surgeon who is experienced in the procedure and follow the instructions of that surgeon very carefully.

A list is generally sent home to help patients prepare for the surgery and recover afterward. If any complications do arise after the procedure, the doctor should be contacted.

How much do Arm Lifts cost?

Arm Lift costs vary based on location, the cosmetic surgeon, demand, the time and effort required during the procedure, as well as what's required during the procedure from start to finish (lab fees, anesthesiologist, hospital stay fee, etc.)  Generally, spending anywhere from $5,000-$6,5000 can be expected.  The exact cost of your procedure is of course highly variable and based on your specific situation.

Most insurance companies do not cover the cost of cosmetic procedures, so patients will need to seek other means of financing. Many cosmetic surgeons will offer options right in their office to make the cost of the procedure easier for patients to manage.  To consult with a cosmetic surgeon and discuss brachioplasty and the overall cost, find a surgeon in your area who is right for you. 

Disclaimer: This information is intended only as an introduction to this procedure. This information should not be used to determine whether you will have the procedure performed nor does it guarantee results of your elective surgery. Further details regarding surgical standards and procedures should be discussed with your physician.

By OnlineSurgery Staff & Dunya Atisha, M.D.
Updated November 5, 2008 

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