Loss of skin elasticity in the upper arm is a problem that can be seen with increasing age or after significant weight loss. After significant weight loss, there can be a large amount of loose, excess skin left behind. Exercise does not get rid of excess skin and patients find that as they lose weight the skin under their arms becomes looser. The primary method to tighten the skin of the upper arm and remove excess fat is called a brachioplasty. Arm lift surgery can restore a person’s ability to wear sleeveless blouses and shirts comfortably, to show their arms without feeling self-conscious, and to live their lives with greater confidence and freedom.
The type of brachioplasty performed depends upon the amount and location of the excess skin. The most common way this is done is by an incision that extends from the armpit to the elbow located on the inner arm. If excess hanging skin is located within two inches from the armpit, the surgeon can potentially pull up and tuck this excess skin into the armpit with an axillary brachioplasty or mini arm tuck. If the excess skin extends from the armpit to the elbow, the only option is the complete removal of the arm flab with a standard brachioplasty or arm lift.
Dr. Storck begins by marking the area of excess skin with the patient either standing or sitting. General anesthesia is administered. Incisions are made on the inner and under surface of the arm. The pattern of skin removal usually follows an elliptical shape. The surgical opening may run from the armpit to as low as the elbow.
While the excess skin and fat is removed, the remaining skin is stretched and sutured into place. Occasionally, a drain is used to lead excess fluids out from the site of incision, allowing the skin better to adhere to the tissue beneath. The incisions are then bandaged and compression garment is worn after surgery. Liposuction is typically added to contour the remaining tissue.
Liposuction of the arms is typically recommended for those patients who primarily have excess fat with little to no excess or loose skin. If the arm skin does not shrink following liposuction, the patient may want to consider a brachioplasty procedure. Liposuction is not a good solution if your problem is due to loose skin. When the skin is loose, brachioplasty surgery is usually the best choice.
An arm lift procedure usually takes about two hours. After a monitored time in the recovery room, patients go home the same day.
An important consideration for brachioplasty patients is the subsequent scars. With a mini arm tuck, the scar is restricted to a semi-circular line hidden within the armpit. A standard brachioplasty results in a scar that extends from the armpit to the elbow, running the length of the upper arm like a seam in a shirt.
After the procedure you will feel groggy. Your arm will be placed in a special compression garment to help the newly-sculpted skin adhere to the tissue underneath. You will probably have several layers of stitches on the upper arm, possibly with a drain inserted to help the skin to adhere to the underlying tissue. Most of the stitches are generally dissolvable and do not require removal. If non-dissolvable sutures are required, they will be removed at 1-2 week’s post-op.
For the first few weeks following surgery, you will have to avoid strenuous activity, including arm elevation and lifting. The swelling is mild to moderate, and may take several months to resolve completely.
While each person’s recovery is unique, the recovery period after an arm lift generally lasts 4 weeks. You’ll probably be able to return to work in a week or two, and resume exercise within four weeks. Strenuous workouts and contact sports can be engaged in after about four weeks.