What Is an Arm Lift?
Arm Lift (Brachioplasty)
An arm lift (also called a brachioplasty) is a plastic surgery procedure that many people consider when they have extra skin under their arms. You may want an arm lift if your clothing is not fitting well, or you don’t like the way your arms look. The goal of arm lift surgery is to reshape your upper arm to look smoother and have less skin that “hangs” when you lift your arm.
University of Utah Health Plastic Surgery Services offers brachioplasty as one of our cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery procedures. Our surgeons and plastic surgery specialists are highly qualified with training and expertise to help you get the arm shape you want and remove excess skin.
Who is a Good Candidate for Arm Lift?
You may have extra skin on your arms for many different reasons. The most common is after weight loss. Your skin stretches slowly as you gain weight. If you lose weight later, your skin may not have enough elasticity (stretch) to shrink back down after the extra weight is gone. When that happens, you will have extra folds of skin that do not have muscle or fat inside to hold it up or provide shape.
Brachioplasty is also used for someone who has trouble keeping the area under their arms clean because of loose skin and skin folds. This can lead to hygiene issues from:
- excess sweat,
- dirt buildup,
- friction (skin rubbing together), or
- skin rash.
You might not be a good candidate for this surgery if:
- you are significantly overweight and still have weight you want to lose.
- you have a lot of changes in your weight (gaining and losing weight often).
- you smoke cigarettes or use tobacco.
- you have trouble with anesthesia (being put to sleep) during surgery.
Most brachioplasty procedures are cosmetic, which means they are not usually covered by insurance. Our financial coordinators will help you understand all the costs, including:
- procedure cost,
- facility fees, and
- other related expenses (such as garments, medications, or dressings).
Find a Plastic Surgeon
During brachioplasty surgery, you will be under anesthesia (put to sleep). Your plastic surgeon will give you the following instructions to prepare for surgery.
- Stop smoking at least six weeks before surgery (the earlier you can stop before surgery the better), and do not start smoking again until after you are fully recovered.
- Do not eat or drink anything after midnight the night before surgery, except small sips of water to take regular medications.
- An anesthesiologist or pre-operative nurse will talk to you about what prescription medications you should stop taking, and which ones you can take the day of surgery with a small sip of water.
- Stop taking all vitamins, herbal remedies, or supplements at least two weeks before surgery.
- Talk to your doctor or a nurse about any over-the-counter medications you take to find out if you should stop taking any of them before surgery.
Before and During Brachioplasty Surgery
Before the procedure, your plastic surgeon will meet with you and draw small lines where they plan to remove fat and skin from your arms. This gives you a chance to see what the surgeon will do in advance, and guides them during surgery.
During the surgery, your plastic surgeon will:
- make an incision (cut) from your armpit to the top of your elbow.
- remove any extra fat either by cutting it out or by using liposuction.
- remove any extra skin by excising (cutting) it.
- tighten and reshape the muscles and tissues with internal sutures (stitches).
- close the remaining skin with stitches that either dissolve or will be removed.
- put a compression wrap around your arm for recovery.
The procedure takes about three hours. It is an outpatient surgery, which means you won’t need to stay in the hospital overnight.
Risks of Brachioplasty Procedure
All surgeries come with risks. During or after brachioplasty, you may have:
- problems with anesthesia,
- visible scars or scars that appear red or raised,
- asymmetry in your arms (arms that do not look the same),
- damage to nerves or lymph tissue, or
- temporary numbness and changes in your skin sensation on your arms.
You will go home the same day after your surgery is done. You will need someone to drive you home from the hospital after being under anesthesia.
Your plastic surgeon will insert small temporary drains under your arm where you had surgery, which allow fluid to drain from the area to prevent infection and fluid buildup as you heal. Our plastic surgery team will give you aftercare instructions to help you understand how to care for the incision (cut) and the drains when you get home.
You will notice some swelling, bruising, and pain around the incisions. This may last for a few days to a couple of weeks after surgery as your arms heal. Your arms will also feel weak for a little while after surgery, but you will slowly regain strength as they heal.
Physical Activity Restrictions
You will be restricted from the following activities for two to three weeks after surgery.
- Do not lift anything heavy (over 10 pounds) with your arms.
- Do not lift your arms above shoulder height.
- Do not drive while you are taking narcotic pain medications and while you still have drains in.
- Do not shave under your arms while you have drains and while the incision (cut) heals.
Your plastic surgeon will discuss when its safe to start exercising again. Most people will need to wait one to two months before getting back to strenuous exercise or fitness routines.
If you decide to combine an arm lift surgery with another cosmetic surgery, such as liposuction or a tummy tuck, it may take longer to heal.
Going Back to Work After Surgery
Most people can go back to work two to three weeks after surgery. If you have a job that requires you to lift heavy things, talk to your plastic surgeon about when you can safely return to work.
What Do Brachioplasty Scars Look Like?
Brachioplasty surgery will leave you with scars. Most people will have a scar that extends from under their arm to their elbow. Your plastic surgeon will do their best to minimize the appearance of the scar.
Your plastic surgeon will put sterile bandages on the incision after surgery to help it heal. Your surgeon will give you information about how to make your scars less noticeable over time, including:
- silicone tape, or
- over-the-counter scar creams.
While you may be able to minimize the look of your scars, you will not be able to get rid of the scars completely. If you are concerned about having long scars on your arms, talk to your plastic surgeon about other options besides brachioplasty.
Schedule a Free Consultation with a Plastic Surgeon
To schedule a free consultation with one of our plastic surgeons and discuss arm lift surgery, call 801-581-7719.
A brachioplasty surgery is considered cosmetic (you are getting it done to improve your appearance and not for medical reasons) and is not covered by insurance. Our financial coordinators can help you understand the costs and answer any questions before your surgery.