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When it comes to weight gain and loss, patterns can be unpredictable and unique to each person.

For some people, the upper arms are a source of frustration, often emerging as a surprising “problem area” of stored fat. Sometimes, just exercising the arms isn't enough to produce a sleek and toned upper arm, especially following massive weight loss, or as the body begins to age. While the skin is an amazing organ that can expand and contract with weight loss or gain, the changes are sometimes too much for the skin to cope with, and it can have a hard time springing back to being sleek and firm in the upper arms after significant weight loss.

An arm lift is an effective solution for people who struggle with excess skin and fat in the upper arms, and cannot get the desired results through diet and exercise. An arm lift is a surgical procedure that is performed to remove fat and skin above the elbow for improved contour, and a tighter, sleeker appearance. This is especially helpful for people who have developed “bat wings” (hanging skin) that cause embarrassment. Asymmetry can also be addressed and a favorable contour restored to the arm.

Arm Lift Consultation

Each person has their own unique goals and expectations for arm lift surgery, which is why a one-on-one consultation with one of our plastic surgeons at our office in Atlanta is the first step toward making your dreams a reality. Our surgeons will assess your arms and discuss your desired results with you so they can start planning a custom procedure that meets your needs. Your medical history will also be reviewed and your candidacy for the procedure will be evaluated. Your consultation is also your valuable opportunity to ask specific questions and get to know our team.

Arm Lift Candidates

Good candidates for the arm lift procedure are women and men with unwanted sagging skin and/or fat in the upper arm and armpit area, which has not responded to regular exercise and a healthy lifestyle. Arm lift surgery is a fairly invasive procedure, and prospective patients should be in general good health to consider undergoing the procedure. Finally, realistic expectations are key for a successful outcome of any plastic surgery procedure.

Arm Lift Procedure

An arm lift is an outpatient surgery performed under general anesthesia, due to the extent of the incisions and the amount of tissue that will be removed. First, an incision is made underneath and to the back of the arm, originating at the armpit and extending down toward the elbow as far as is necessary to address the excess skin of the upper arm. Once the incision has been made, excess skin will be removed from the arm, and tight, youthful contours will be restored. Finally, the incision is closed, typically using absorbable stitches.

If any fat removal is required, liposuction can be performed during the same surgery to address all aesthetic issues of the upper arms. A brachioplasty takes one to two hours to treat both sides, longer if other surgeries are combined with arm rejuvenation. Additional surgeries can be performed at the same time, as long as the surgeon thinks it is safe to do so in a given situation.

Arm Lift Recovery

Following surgery, patients will experience normal post-surgical swelling and discomfort, sometimes even in the lower arms, hands, and fingers, in addition to the upper arms. This can be partially prevented by elevating the arms as much as possible in the first few days following surgery. Since the stitches used in arm lift surgery are usually absorbable, patients can typically spend their first one to two weeks following surgery focusing on healing, and then return to light activity when they are advised to do so and feel up to it. More strenuous activity, including lifting and exercising will need to wait several more weeks, and the swelling from the procedure will subside gradually over the months following surgery. All swelling should be resolved after about six months or so.

Arm Lift FAQs

  • Where are the arm lift scars located?

    As with any plastic surgery procedure, our plastic surgeons try their best to make the incisions and subsequent scarring as minimal as possible. With that said, some scarring is expected from an arm lift, and most patients prefer the scar to the hanging skin and fat that prompts the need for an arm lift. Incisions are typically located on the underside of the upper arm, but can extend toward the elbow depending on the amount of skin to be removed and the location of the skin. These scars will be hidden when the arms are at rest. Scars will initially appear red and raised, and should fade over the first year following surgery. However, scars in the arms take longer to fade than in other parts of the body, therefore, it may even take up to a couple of years.

  • Will my arms look toned after an arm lift?

    While an arm lift will improve the arm's overall contour, the procedure will not affect the arm muscles themselves. Normal strength training will be necessary to achieve a truly “toned” look, and patients should keep in mind that this kind of activity will be restricted for several weeks following the procedure. An arm lift will certainly help showcase any future or current muscle gain, due to the fact that skin and fat obscuring the arm muscles will be removed.

  • How painful is arm lift recovery?

    Many patients are surprised to find that arm lift recovery is less painful than expected. This is because the muscles of the upper arm are not disturbed during the operation, and skin and fat are the only tissues that are manipulated. This makes the recovery process much more comfortable than many other procedures that do affect the muscles. Discomfort during arm lift recovery can usually be controlled with prescribed pain medication.

  • What is a brachioplasty?

    Brachioplasty is the medical term for an upper arm lift which involves a cosmetic, surgical procedure to remove excess skin and fat from the upper arm. The term literally means arm (brachio) reshaping (plasty).

  • What kind of liposuction is used in an arm lift?

    There are many types of liposuction available today, and at Emory Aesthetic Center, we use one of two types of liposuction for procedures at our Atlanta office. Both techniques use fluid infiltration to help remove the fat – either standard suction assisted lipectomy (SAL) or ultrasonic assisted lipectomy (UAL), which uses sound waves to break up the fat tissue. And in some cases both techniques are utilized.

  • When can I exercise after an arm lift?

    While patients can resume many activities, including non-strenuous work (such as a desk job) after just one to two weeks, exercise and other vigorous activity must be further postponed. While light exercise of the lower body such as walking, a stationary bike, or an elliptical machine are possible early on, exercise which heavily affect the upper body such as weight lifting or yoga will need to be deferred for several weeks.

  • What is a mini arm lift?

    A mini arm lift is simply a scaled down version of a full arm lift procedure. This is not a common term, as most surgeons just customize the arm lift surgery to suit each patient’s individual needs. Generally, a procedure considered a “mini” arm lift will involve a shorter than average scar and only minimal removal of excess skin and fat—an approach that is appropriate for some patients, but certainly, not all.

  • Will liposuction alone get me the results I want?

    Most candidates for an arm lift will not enjoy the same results from liposuction alone that they would from a full arm lift. Liposuction targets only one of two issues that call for an arm lift: excess fat. Since many people seek arm lift surgery to resolve loose, hanging skin that will not retract, liposuction must be combined with skin excision to provide the dramatic results expected of arm lift surgery.

  • Can I combine an arm lift with other procedures?

    It is common for arm lift patients to consider other procedures in combination with the arm lift procedure. Your plastic surgeon can advise you on what combination of procedures is safe in your case. Plastic surgery is highly customizable, so be sure to voice all of your goals and communicate with your surgeon about what you're looking for, so he or she can help you come up with a treatment plan that suits your needs.

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