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Arm Lift


Another name for arm lift is brachioplasty. It is a procedure used to remove loose, saggy skin of the upper arm. Typically, it is most useful in patients who have undergone significant weight loss and are left with hanging skin that has lost its ability to stretch back. Brachioplasty can also be used in older people whose skin is unusually inelastic and has become loose for reasons other than weight loss. Usually the arm lift is a two part procedure. The first part, relates to removing excessive skin along the inside of the upper arm and within the armpit. The second part, is a suspension of the underlying tissues so that sagging in the future is less likely to occur. Both procedures are done during one operation. It should be mentioned that this procedure is not for everybody as it tends to leave a thick, noticeable scar along the inside of the upper arm. Therefore, as with any procedure, one must weigh the pros and cons before making a decision. A candidate must be willing to accept a long scar on the inside part of the arm (the part that is usually not seen) as a trade off for removal of the hanging skin.


To the patient with a significant amount of loose, hanging skin, the arm lift can be an extremely satisfying procedure.

  • Arm lift is very effective at removing loose, hanging skin of the upper arm.
  • It can liberate from being forced to wear baggy, long sleeved shirts.
  • It can provide the confidence to wear more revealing eveningwear that hasn't been considered prior to the surgery.
  • Aside from the cosmetic advantage, it can reduce arm diameter allowing to fit into shirts that were once too tight.
  • It can help reduce under arm rash.

Are you a good candidate?

The best candidate is the patient with a significant amount of loose skin in the upper arm, without much fat. If you can grab the skin of the upper arm and pinch it so that your fingertips almost meet with just a thin amount of fat in between you are probably a good candidate. In an overweight patient, the presence of subcutaneous fat makes an arm lift procedure not practical. In this case, liposuction would be a consideration. However, it must be mentioned that liposuction is not very predictable in the upper arm region. The ideal patient is the one that has just lost a significant amount of weight and his/her skin is not able to stretch back.

Possible complications

The most common problem with arm lifting is a thick scar. It is strategically placed on the inside of the arm where most people cannot see it. Other complications include inadequate skin resection, contour defects, blood or fluid collection, and infection.

Do's and Don'ts prior to surgery

  • Medications. Certain medications thin blood and should not be taken within three weeks of surgery. The most notable is aspirin and aspirin containing products. Vitamin E and many herbal products also thin the blood and should not be used within three weeks of surgery. Your doctor will go over this more thoroughly prior to the procedure. It is very important to go over all your current medications and health problems during your consultation.

  • Sleep. It is important to get a good night's rest prior to the procedure. If you think this may be a problem, please, do not hesitate to ask your doctor for something to help you sleep.

  • Smoking. Please do not smoke within three weeks before and after surgery. Smoking has a profound effect on reducing wound healing capabilities. It significantly increases the likelihood for infection, wound healing problems, and scar formation. It also affects your airway, what makes anesthesia much more difficult.

  • Eating. Do not eat within eight hours of surgery and do not drink within six hours of surgery. Please discuss all medications with your doctor and the anesthesiologist.

  • Arrival. It is important to arrive on time so everything goes as planned. Please be sure to have someone else drive you home.

  • State of mind. Remember, this should be a happy and exciting time. A certain amount of nervousness is normal but you must not be overly concerned. Our specialists have considerable experience and will do everything to make you as comfortable as possible. Excessive worrying can be detrimental and you should discuss this with your doctor prior to surgery so that something can be prescribed to make sure you remain calm.


The anesthesiologist will discuss with you what type of anesthesia is best for you prior to the procedure. He/she will take into consideration your medical history, the procedure and your personal wishes. Typically, the procedure is done under general anesthesia. It can, however, be performed under local with sedation depending on the amount of skin that needs to be removed.

After the procedure

Immediately. You will remain in recovery for approximately 1 to 2 hours after the procedure. At that time the nurses will help you to get up and walk around on your own. You should get pain relief medications as needed. Poor pain control sets into motion a series of chemical and physical disturbances within the body that are counterproductive to wound healing. Once you are able to walk and take care of yourself you will go home with someone driving you.

That Night. It is recommended that you take it easy that night and the next day. Light walking and minor tasks are encouraged. You will have circumferential dressings around both arms. Keep them on and sleep with your arms elevated on pillows to decrease swelling. Be sure to take your pain mediation and antibiotic. Both are very important.

The next day. Keep your dressings on for the first two days. On the third day, take off your dressing and take a cool shower. Let the cool water rinse over your arms. Gently use soap. When you get out, put a light dressing on and gently wrap an ACE wrap around your arms starting with your forearm going to your shoulder to help squeeze the swelling out of your arm. Do not put it on too tight. If it hurts it should be loosened up.

The first week. Continue to wash your arms once or twice a day and then reapply the ACE wrap. There may be some oozing but it will stop after 3 to 4 days. Your first postoperative appointment will be one week after the operation.

Afterward. It is recommended to wait until 6 weeks before you perform strenuous activity. Prior to that time it may cause unfavorable scar formation. It is also recommended to follow both the nutritional plan and the local treatment prescribed by your doctor to optimize wound healing and minimize scar formation. This will be discussed prior to surgery as well as during the post operative visit. Two weeks after the operation apply Scarguard to the incision. Scarguard is a steroid, vitamin E, and silicone combination that significantly improves appearance of the scar. It should not be applied before 2 weeks of surgery because it may impede wound healing.

The good thing about the incisions related to this procedure is that they are not likely to be exposed directly to the sun, unless you are holding your arms up for some reason. Sun tanning is not recommended as it makes the scars much darker and thicker.

Recovery time

Typically, patients are able to return to work a week after an arm lift. If your job, however, requires strenuous arm movement it may take 2 to 3 weeks to return.


The cost will vary depending on the amount of redundant skin you have. Typically, the range is $3,000 to $4,000. This includes all costs directly related to the procedure including postoperative visits. If it is performed in addition to other procedures the cost may be reduced.