What is brachioplasty?

An brachioplasty – also called arm lift surgery – is a cosmetic surgical procedure that lifts, firms and reshapes the upper part of your arms. At The Ohio State University Wexner Medical in Columbus, our cosmetic surgeons treat loose, hanging skin extending from the underarm area to your elbow.

The board-certified plastic surgeons at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center can change the form and appearance of your arms. During an arm lift, the surgeon removes excess skin and tissues, including pockets of fat. The doctor trims and tightens underlying tissues and smooths out remaining skin to give your arms tighter definition and shape.

Plastic surgeons at Ohio State may perform arm lift surgery alone or along with body contouring or other cosmetic surgery procedures.

Why is brachioplasty done?

Age, weight changes, environmental stress and genetic traits can contribute to a loss of skin elasticity. When this happens, skin begins to sag. Gravity can cause separate underlying supportive tissues, creating folds of drooping skin. An arm lift addresses loose skin that doesn’t tighten despite focused weight loss and exercise efforts.

Plastic surgeons at Ohio State may consider an arm lift procedure for adults who meet the following criteria:

  • Significantly loose, drooping or fatty skin hanging from the upper arm 
  • No obesity or weight management concerns 
  • No smoking or substance abuse 
  • Relatively consistent and steady weight maintenance 
  • Good health with no medical conditions that could raise risks or impair healing 
  • Positive outlook and realistic expectations 

How to prepare for brachioplasty

Preparing for arm lift surgery may include the following steps:

  • Medical evaluation 
  • Lab testing
  • Evaluation and adjustment of medications or supplements
  • Instructions to stop smoking or other unhealthy habits
  • Instructions to avoid taking aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs and herbal supplements that can increase bleeding

What to expect if you have an brachioplasty

Ohio State plastic surgeons perform arm lift procedures in an accredited office surgical facility, surgical center or hospital. You’ll need to make advance arrangements for someone to drive you to and from surgery. You’ll also need to ask a trusted adult to stay with you overnight after surgery.

Your doctor will discuss anesthesia recommendations during pre-surgery office appointments. Before surgery, you may receive intravenous (IV) sedation or general anesthesia, so you won’t feel or remember the procedure.

The doctor will also discuss the type, location and length of incisions. All surgeries cause some scarring, but your surgeon will choose the best location to minimize visible scars. The length and type of incisions depend on how much tissue will be removed, where it’s located and other variables. For arm lift surgery, it’s common to have incisions on the inside or back of the arm extending from the underarm area to the area above the elbow. Your doctor may perform liposuction to remove excess fat.

Once incisions are made, the surgeon tightens underlying supportive tissue and uses internal sutures to sculpt and shape deeper tissues. When this is complete, the doctor tightens and smooths skin across the new curves of your arm. Your surgeon may use absorbable sutures or stitches to close incisions before wound dressings or bandages.

Brachioplasty recovery

When you awaken after an arm lift, you can expect to have some redness and bruising on your arms. They may be wrapped in elastic bandages or compression garments to help manage swelling. You may have a small, thin tube beneath your skin to help drain fluids.

Your care team will monitor your condition as the effects of anesthesia subside. The doctor will evaluate your condition and discuss next steps. You’ll learn about wound care, including what to expect and what symptoms you need to report promptly to prevent or manage complications.

Your doctor may prescribe and discuss medications. You’ll also receive instructions about what type and level of activities are safe and when you can resume normal routines. During recovery, it’s essential to avoid excessive force, movement or pressure on your surgical wounds as they heal.

Results of brachioplasty

After arm lift surgery, your arm skin will be smoother, with more firm contours. This will be clearly visible once postoperative swelling subsides. You’ll schedule a follow-up appointment so your doctor can evaluate and guide your recovery. If you have stitches, they’ll be removed during an office visit within a week or two after your arm lift. Any fluid-draining tubes will also be removed during a follow-up visit.

You’ll have some scarring in areas where incisions were made. Surgical scars fade over time but don’t go away completely. Your doctor can discuss skin care and ways to minimize the formation and appearance of scars.

You can expect long-lasting results with good skin care and healthy lifestyle choices, including exercise and steady weight management. For good results, it’s important to follow your doctor’s care instructions before and after surgery. In most instances, you’ll be fully recovered within two weeks of an arm lift.

Risks of brachioplasty

All surgical procedures carry some risks, which can vary depending on the nature of the surgery and health condition. It’s important to fully understand all of the potential benefits and risks of any surgery before deciding to proceed. Your plastic surgeon will assess and discuss your health condition and potential risks during early evaluation and consultation visits to the doctor’s office.

Complications that are possible with any surgical procedure include infection, bleeding, poor wound healing or reaction to anesthesia. Possible complications of brachioplasty or arm lift surgery include:

  • Injury to deeper nerves, blood vessels and muscles
  • Death of fatty tissue beneath the skin (fat necrosis)
  • Fluid buildup (seroma)
  • Numb skin or other skin sensation changes
  • Persistent pain
  • Sutures that don’t absorb, causing irritation, drainage and redness
  • Scarring

Your potential risks are lower when your surgery is performed by experienced, board certified plastic surgery specialists such as Ohio State’s. You can also reduce the risk of complications by communicating clearly, asking questions and following your doctor’s instructions before and after surgery.

Your doctor and care team will inform you about any warning signs that should be reported promptly to prevent or treat potential complications.

Why choose Ohio State for brachioplasty?

At the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, our experienced, board certified plastic surgeons are cosmetic and reconstructive surgery specialists. Ohio State’s commitment to high-level care includes:

Plastic surgeons who are leaders in the field with advanced expertise in the latest surgical techniques

Comprehensive care across specialties, including leading skin care specialists who can make recommendations to help you achieve your best possible results

Treatment at a nationally recognized medical center with academic and research leadership, which provides access to safe, evidence-based innovations in cosmetic surgery

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