Brachioplasty: Is an Arm Lift Right for You?

Arm LiftWith an ever-increasing focus on fitness, more and more patients are seeking surgery to achieve firm, toned, youthful appearing arms. In fact, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, brachioplasty – otherwise known as an arm lift – is currently the fastest growing aesthetic surgery procedure in North America, increasing by more than 775% from 1997 to 2013. When we think about treatment of the arms, however, it is important to know that it is not a “one size fits all” treatment, and that there are options.

Before getting into these options it is important to understand that when we use the term “brachioplasty” we are generally talking about treating the upper arms, typically from the elbow to the area under the axilla, or arm pit. There are times that we might treat the forearm (the area between the elbow and the wrist), but that is far less common. We can also extend the brachioplasty onto the chest wall to treat laxity in that area if needed.

There are two primary tools that surgeons have to contour the arms – this includes fat removal and surgical excision. Fat removal is done primarily by liposuction, with a tiny incision placed behind the elbow. While fat removal may lead to a much better contour, liposuction by itself does not tighten the skin significantly. Surgical excision actually tightens the skin by removing excess skin and the underlying fat. Because many patients have both fat excess and skin laxity, they might be candidates for a combined procedure using both liposuction and skin excision.

If you have good skin elasticity but some fatty deposits on the arms, you might be an excellent candidate for liposuction only. If you have lost significant amounts of weight – say after a gastric bypass surgery or significant weight loss through diet and exercise – you will probably have skin laxity that requires surgical excision. If your arms have become wrinkled and a little saggy with natural aging, perhaps a reduced scar arm lift – with the scar limited to the armpit or perhaps only the upper half of the arm – might be a great option for you.

Scars are an important consideration to discuss with your surgeon when you are considering arm contouring. The scars that are produced with brachioplasty vary. In a minority of cases, the incision can be limited to the arm pit, but more typically the scars extend from the arm pit toward the elbow, sometimes for the full length of the upper arm. With liposuction, scarring isn’t really an issue, since the scar is so small. With a full-length brachioplasty, however, the scar is exposed when wearing short sleeves or sleeveless garments. In addition, while brachioplasty scars often heal with a good final appearance, they often seem to take longer to fade than scars in other areas of the body. To help reduce scar visibility, the incisions are generally positioned on the inside of the arm toward the back, where they are not visible when the arms are resting at your side. New mechanical scar therapies may also have a role in helping optimize final scar appearance.

The recovery period from a brachioplasty is generally fairly short, with most patients returning to normal day-to-day activities within a week or two. Elevating the arms during the first few days of recovery can help reduce swelling and ease the recovery. Full activity, including returning to your exercise routine, is generally possible within a month.

So if you think arm contouring is something you may be interested in, talk to one of the cosmetic surgeons at the Emory Aesthetic Center. We can help you figure out if you are a good candidate and if so, what combination of procedures is best fitted to helping you achieve the look that you seek.

For more information on arm lifts, check out the video below!

About Dr. Eaves

Felmont Eaves, MDDr. Eaves recently returned to Atlanta, Georgia, to head the Emory Aesthetic Center as Medical Director, having previously completed his plastic surgery residency as well as a fellowship in endoscopic and minimally invasive plastic surgery at Emory University, The Emory Clinic, and associated hospitals. Before joining the Emory Aesthetic Center, Dr. Eaves was a partner in Charlotte Plastic Surgery for more than fifteen years and served as group president from 2010-2012.

His professional and institutional committee memberships and offices include an impressive list of national, international and local plastic surgery organizations, societies, boards, task forces, advisory councils, coalitions and foundations, including having served as President of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) from 2010-2011 and Trustee (2011-Present).

Dr. Eaves’ primary areas of academic inquiry have been in minimally-invasive and endoscopic aesthetic surgery, patient safety, system and process improvement in plastic surgery, evidence-based medicine applied to plastic surgery and recontouring surgery after massive weight loss. He has received several patents for new medical devices he developed, and has made major clinical service contributions to his field. Dr. Eaves has published more than 100 articles, book chapters and book reviews on plastic surgery in peer reviewed publications, as well as manuals, videos, computer programs and other teaching aids and has coauthored the first textbook on the topic of endoscopic plastic surgery.

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