Arm Lift Surgery - Brachioplasty

Arm lift surgery, or brachioplasty, is a procedure that involves removing the skin and subcutaneous tissue from the lower area of the upper arm.  The procedure is desirable to those who have sagging tissues in the upper portion of their arm resulting from aging or losing a significant amount of weight. 

What does the Arm Lift Surgery Procedure Involve ?

For most patients, arm lift procedure takes only about two hours to complete, though patients generally must remain in the hospital for one to two days after the actual surgery is completed.  The actual amount of time required for the surgery and the size of the incision, however, depends upon how much skin has to be removed, the location of the excess skin and the amount of fat that needs to be removed.

In the most severe cases, the surgeon will need to make an incision that extends all the way from the elbow to the armpit, but most patients do not require such an extensive incision.  Regardless of the length of the incision, it is made in the inner part of the arm in a curved or zigzagged fashion.  Extra skin and fat is then removed, though liposuction may also be used to help remove additional fatty deposits.  The incision may also be drained in order to assist with stretching and suturing the skin. 

After the surgery is completed, the area is bandaged in order to assist with healing.  Depending upon the extent of the surgery, the stitches may be removed one to three weeks later.  During this time, patients generally experience swelling, bruising and a sense of tightening in the area where the surgery was made.  Therefore, some patients may need to wear a supporting garment for a few weeks after the surgery in order to expedite the healing process.  In addition, strenuous activity should be avoided and antibiotics should be taken in order to prevent infection.

Risks Associated with Arm Lift Surgery

Although arm lift surgery can reduce the amount of fat and excess skin in the upper arm in order to provide it with a more attractive shape and overall appearance, there are risks associated with this type of surgery.  Some of the common side effects of arm lift surgery include:

  • Bleeding
  • Bruising
  • Infection
  • Numbness
  • Scarring
  • Swelling

Some of the more serious complications that may result from arm lift surgery include:

  • Contour Abnormalities - If the surgeon removes too much fat or skin, it can result in contour depressions.  Contour abnormalities may also occur due to scarring.  In either case, ultrasound-assisted lipoplasty or ultrasonic liposuction may be used to correct the abnormality.
  • Hematoma - Occurs when blood accumulates beneath the skin and will not drain with the help of tubes.  If this occurs, an additional surgery will be necessary to stop the bleeding and to drain the hematoma.
  • Nerve Compression - Occurs if the nerves are compressed during or after the surgery, which can make it difficult for you to move your arms and hands.
  • Numbness - While a certain amount of numbness during the first couple weeks following surgery is considered normal, it is possible that numbness will continue for several months or may even be permanent.
  • Pulmonary Embolism - Occurs when a blood clot gets into the lungs.  You can reduce the risk pulmonary embolism by using anti-coagulant medication and engaging in early mobilization.
  • Skin or Fat Death - Skin or fat along the incision line may die, which delays the healing process and may require a skin graft to repair. Risk of skin or fat death increases if you are a smoker.
  • Serum Collection - Serum may collect in the area following the surgery, which will require making several visits to the plastic surgeon's office in order to get the serum removed.

Individuals who are overweight, who smoke and who suffer from diabetes or other health conditions are more likely to experience complications from arm lift surgery.  Therefore, it is important to get these conditions under control as much as possible and to discuss your personal risks with your surgeon before deciding if arm lift surgery is right for you.

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