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Arm Lift Surgery

Arm lift surgery (brachioplasty) is a procedure to remove excess skin on the upper posterior arms.  This operation is most often sought by those who have lost a substantial amount of weight, and as a result the upper arm skin hangs down and is floppy.  Some people call this excess tissue “bat wings”. If there is only a small amount of excess fat but no skin laxity, alternatives to having invasive surgery include non-surgical options like toning the area with weight loss and exercise, dissolving away extra fat with a cooling technique called cryolipolysis (Coolsculpting), or less invasive surgery like liposuction.  However, if the skin is very loose, these operations will not yield the same results as arm lift surgery.

Arm lift surgery can occasionally be performed using a small incision hidden in the armpit, but for the majority of people with very loose skin, I find that it is more effective to make an incision along the entire length of the upper posterior arm, which permits removal of even more skin.  This skin excision procedure can be combined with liposuction of the excess fat, to further improve the final contour.

It is important to be prepared for downtime after arm lift surgery.  After an operation like this, one is reminded how frequently the arms are used during their daily routine!  Light activities can be performed immediately after surgery but heavy lifting or repetitive tasks should be avoided for 6 weeks.  There will be bruising and some tenderness after surgery that typically resolve after a few weeks, but it takes 12-18 months or longer for scars to fade after surgery.

The main advantage of this operation is the significant contour improvement that can be improved, which cannot be matched with nonsurgical treatments.  However, the disadvantages include the long scar that will be apparent with the arm in certain positions, the risk of complications (rarely including major permanent problems like numbness, loss of arm function, or chronic swelling called lymphedema), and the recovery time.  All of these issues must be discussed in more detail during a consultation with Dr. Andrade, and taken into consideration before deciding whether arm lift surgery is the best cosmetic surgery option for you.  Overall, I find that for patients with substantial redundant skin on the upper arms the vast majority of these patients are very happy with the results.  However, if there is only mild skin laxity, the risks, costs and downtime are probably not justified in my opinion.