Arm Lift

If you're considering an arm lift…

An arm lift, or brachioplasty, is a surgical procedure that removes and reduces excess skin and fat from your upper arms. It smooths and tightens the area extending from your underarm to your elbow to show off your muscle tone and give you a younger, healthier appearance. Basically, an arm lift helps you say goodbye to "bingo wings."

If you're considering an arm lift, the following information will give you a basic understanding of the procedure -- when it can help, how it is performed and how you might look and feel after surgery, however your best and most personalized information will always come from a consultation with an accredited plastic surgeon.

The best candidates for arm lift

Just like with any plastic surgery procedure, it's important to have realistic expectations. An arm lift isn't the same thing as liposuction, and though your doctor may perform some moderate fat removal during the procedure, it isn't intended for getting rid of large fat deposits. It's for dealing with the sagging skin caused by a loss of elasticity from either extreme weight loss, or the natural aging process. In order to be an ideal candidate for an arm lift, you should be stabilized either at or near your goal weight. The more committed you are to a healthy diet and lifestyle, the better your long-term results will be. Non-smokers are also known to have fewer surgical complications.

All surgery carries some uncertainty and risk

An arm lift is no different. When performed by a qualified plastic surgeon, an arm lift is generally safe and effective. However, like all surgeries, there is always a possibility of complications or a reaction to the anesthesia. Additionally, though the incisions will be placed as discreetly as possible, there will be scarring that accompanies the procedure. Getting an arm lift is a personal decision, so only you can decide if those scars are worth achieving smooth and toned upper arms.

General surgical risks include infection, blood clots, poor healing, and hematoma. Your doctor will go over those risks with you in full during your consultations and can answer any questions you may have. You can reduce your risks by closely following your physician's advice both before and after surgery.

Planning your surgery

Your doctor has successfully completed hundreds if not thousands of plastic surgery procedures. There's no reason to feel shy or uneasy while in the clinic for a consultation, and there's definitely no reason to hold anything back in your discussions. Be candid about your concerns, hopes, and expectations, and be upfront about your medical condition. Prepare a list of any medications you're currently using, including vitamins and herbal supplements, and be prepared to answer questions about tobacco, drug, or alcohol use. The questions are only being asked to keep you safe and ensure that you get the best possible treatment.

Your doctor will let you know what kind of results you can realistically expect. He or she will also describe the procedure in detail, explaining its risks, limitations, and scarring. He or she will also explain the anesthesia to be used, the type of facility where the surgery will be performed, and the costs involved. Body contouring procedures like the arm lift are far from being one-procedure-fits-all. Your surgeon will discuss all of your options and may suggest a different course of treatment that could provide you with better results, such as liposuction, or a combination of liposuction and an arm lift. Your surgeon wants the same thing you do – the best possible results – so be open to his or her ideas or suggestions.

Preparing for your surgery

After performing a complete medical evaluation for your safety and comfort, your doctor will give you specific instructions on how to prepare for surgery, including guidelines on eating and drinking, smoking, and taking or avoiding vitamins, iron tablets and certain medications, such as aspirin or anti-inflammatory drugs.

Your surgeon will decide if it's best for you to have your surgery performed in a surgeon's office-based facility, in an outpatient surgery center, or in a hospital. It will most likely be an outpatient procedure, so you'll need to arrange for someone to drive you to and from surgery, and also to stay with you for at least the first night following surgery to make sure you're comfortable.

Types of anesthesia

You and your surgeon will work together to select the type of anesthesia that will provide the optimal level of comfort for your surgery.

Some patients prefer general anesthesia, to be "under" or "asleep" during the procedure. If this is what you and your surgeon decide on, a specialized nurse anesthetist or anesthesiologist will be called in to monitor you and make sure you remain completely asleep during surgery.

Arm lifts may also be performed with intravenous sedation to keep you awake but relaxed and pain-free during the procedure.

The surgery

Your experience will begin with you getting comfortable in the surgical facility and speaking with your doctor about any last-minute questions or concerns. When you and your doctor are ready, your anesthesia will be administered.

There are three different potential incision placements. You and your doctor will have already discussed which is best for you based on the location and amount of excess skin that is being removed.

Incisions are most typically placed either on the inside of the arm, or the back of the arm, and may extend from the underarm to just above the elbow. If your specific case permits, a more limited incision may be made, spanning the underarm.

Once the incision is made, the underlying tissue is tightened and reshaped using internal sutures. The final step involves the skin being smoothed and tightened over your new, slimmer contour. Excess skin will be removed during this step. The incision will be closed with either absorbable sutures, or stitches that will be removed in a follow-up appointment within 1-2 weeks.

After your surgery

Your results will be visible right away so you'll be able to check out your toned, slimmer arms. You can expect your results to get even better over the following weeks as your bruising and swelling subsides. Following your surgery, bandages may be applied to your incisions, and your arms may be wrapped in an elastic bandage or a compression garment to minimize swelling. A thin tube may be temporarily placed under the skin to drain any excess blood or fluid that collects. Your surgeon will map out the best recovery plan for you and will book follow-up appointments to remove your stitches and check results.

Getting back to normal

The healing process is an important one, so it's vital that you not only listen to your doctor, but listen to your body. You can most likely return to non-strenuous work after a week or so. Strenuous work and exercise should not be resumed until four to six weeks have passed, and you'll need to take care to be gentle with your incisions during this time for best possible healing.

Most of your swelling will subside within the first four to six weeks. However, your full, final results may not be evident until up to three to six months after your procedure.

Your new look

Because arm lifts are typically performed on patients who have healthy lifestyles, the procedure is often a key step to revealing the toned, contoured body you've worked hard for. Your results should be largely permanent as long as you don't lose or gain a significant amount of weight. Bear in mind that age and gravity will eventually cause some loss of firmness, but overall you'll enjoy a fitter, more youthful appearance.

Arm lifts are also often performed in conjunction with other body-contouring procedures such as liposuction, breast lifts, tummy tucks, or thigh lifts, especially in patients who have undergone extreme weight loss. An arm lift is just one of the plastic surgery puzzle pieces that can reveal a whole new you.

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