As more Americans make the commitment to get healthy and lose significant amounts of weight, they may also turn to cosmetic procedures to help them achieve the final steps toward total rejuvenation. Getting rid of excess skin after a gastric bypass surgery or some other bariatric procedure that allowed for rapid weight loss can be difficult. A particularly challenging area, even for individuals without significant weight loss, is the upper arm area.
Arm lift surgery, also known as Brachioplasty, can eliminate the sagging often found between the underarm and elbow. But like most quick fixes, there is a trade off in the form of possible long incisions and scars.
Who is a Good Candidate for an Arm Lift Surgery?
Unlike other areas of the body that can be hidden by clothing, the arms are on display even in long sleeves. Patients who want to be able to wear short sleeve or sleeveless tops and those who have trouble comfortably fitting their arms inside long sleeves could possibly benefit from brachioplasty.
The procedure should only be used when simple liposuction is not enough. If it’s just a matter of excess fat, liposuction should be the first option. This is why the majority of arm lift patients are those who have experienced massive weight loss. Often described as “bat wings,” people have trouble improving the contour of the upper arm even with diet and exercise because the skin has lost its elasticity and stretched.
What are the Surgical Techniques for an Arm Lift?
There are two techniques available for those patients who need more surgical intervention beyond liposuction, although liposuction is often used in conjunction with a brachioplasty.
1. Axillary Arm Lift or Mini Arm Tuck – For patients with minimal sagging of the skin and whose ìproblemî area does not extend beyond two inches from the armpit, a less invasive axillary arm lift may be indicated. This technique limits the incision and subsequent scar to the underarm. A semi-circle is cut and used to pull and tuck the excess skin into the armpit.
2. Standard Arm Lift Surgery- In this procedure, the plastic surgeon makes an incision from the elbow up to the underarm. The scar runs along the underside of the upper arm in the same place as a shirt seam. While long and significant, it can only be seen when the arms are raised up.
3. Extended Arm Lift Surgery – For some, the excess skin goes beyond the armpits and onto the chest and back. An extended arm lift follows the same incision path as a standard arm lift but the incision continues onto the sides of the chest in a horizontal line.
It is not possible to predict how each patient will heal and what kind of scar will form. For this reason, patients need to weigh the burden of sagging arm skin against the burden of long scars.
The risks for arm lift surgery are similar to those of any other surgery and include swelling, bruising, pain, infection, sensation of arm tightness or a unsatisfactory result. Always ask your surgeon for a full list of risks and possible complications before any surgery.
The typical recovery time for a brachioplasty depends on the extent of the surgery with longer incisions requiring more healing time. Most patients will be bandaged with compression and will have thin tubes in each arm to allow for fluid drainage for 2-3 days following surgery. It takes about 2-3 weeks before the sutures can be removed, but most patients can return to non-strenuous work after about one week. Of course, lifting heavy objects will take several more weeks. Swelling will continue for 2-3 months and the scars can take up to 2 years to fully finish changing.
How Much Does Arm Lift Surgery Cost?
Depending upon the surgeon’s experience, geographic location and extent of the surgery, expect to pay $4,500 – $8,000 for an arm lift.
Is Arm Lift Surgery Right For You?
If you are one of those amazing people who has reached a healthy and stable weight after years of struggle, then you deserve to feel fabulous about your body. Be sure to weigh the benefits against the risks and find an expert who is certified by the ABMS in plastic surgery. And then, enjoy the new you!
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