The medical term for an arm lift or arm reduction surgery is called brachialplasty. This is useful for people whose arms are too large.
As we age, the skin of the arms can hang and be unattractive. This can also happen after massive weight loss and with weight gain. The hanging skin is usually most prominent in the upper arm area. Some people unflatteringly refer to these as “bat wings”. Often people with this condition will not wear short-sleeved shirts or blouses, even in very hot weather. Usually the problem is mostly in the upper arm area above the elbow with the lower arm area being relatively normal in width (thickness). A brachialplasty or “arm lift” is the procedure whereby the extra skin is removed and the width of the upper arm is made smaller and thinner.
In some cases, liposuction is all that is needed to correct this problem (see section on liposuction).* However, if there is truly an excess of skin, liposuction alone will simply cause to the skin to hang more and make the problem worse. When there is an excess of skin, liposuction must be combined with some type of skin excision. This is when a brachialplasty is needed.
Unfortunately in order to remove skin, a long scar is necessary. The scar runs from the armpit area down to the elbow. Sometimes some of the scar will be in the armpit also. The scar is placed on the inside of the arm so that it is not visible unless the arms are lifted. If you are not willing to accept a long scar, you should not have this procedure.
The surgery is usually done under general anesthesia and takes about 1 ½ to 2 hours. An incision is made in the armpit and carried down along the inside of the arm all the way to the elbow. The scar is placed on the inside of the arm so that it is not visible unless the arm is lifted. Almost always there is some liposuction done with this procedure. After the liposuction, the skin and remaining fat is elevated off the arm muscles. The extra skin and fat is trimmed off, and the incision is closed. The exact same procedure is done on the other arm. After you recover from surgery, usually about one hour, you will be able to go home (outpatient surgery.)
After surgery it is normal for the arms to be bruised, swollen and tight. There may be some numbness. The swelling may extend even down the arm and all the way to the hand. It is important to keep the arms elevated on some pillows for a couple of days. Ice is also useful. Usually the pain is not severe. If it is severe, it is important to notify Dr. Smith immediately. A patient can usually return to work after seven days provided he or she does not have to do a lot of heavy lifting or use the arms a lot. Most of the swelling and bruising subsides by about two weeks, but some swelling will persist for up to three months. Also any heavy exercise or arm use my cause some swelling to occur even as long as six months after surgery. Exercise involving the arms should not be done until seven to eight weeks after surgery. The scar is usually very red and visible at first. However, the scars should fade and improve for up to 2 years. After 2 years the scars are usually, but not always, light and often not easily seen.*
An arm lift is the best option when a person has a large amount of excess hanging arm skin. Dr. Smith has over 10 years’ experience in performing this procedure and is a highly skilled surgeon and artist. If you are interested in having this procedure, do not hesitate to make an appointment with Dr. Smith, a board-certified surgeon.