After significant weight loss, many patients are left with excess sagging skin in some areas. One area in particular that frequently sees excess skin is the upper arm area. Sagging, drooping skin does not change with diet or exercise; it requires a surgical intervention. This intervention is known as an arm lift, or brachioplasty, and it is one of the most desired procedures for patients who want to reshape their arms after they have experienced significant weight loss according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
The brachioplasty procedure is a surgical procedure that excises extra sagging skin left behind after weight loss. Other patients opting for arm lifts include those who have extra drooping skin as a result of genetics or age. Extra arm skin or fat may make some individuals feels self-conscious and also motivate them to undergo the procedure.
The goal of the procedure is to reduce the excess sagging skin that hangs downward, and to tighten the tissue of the arm to help define the arm’s shape. The excess sagging skin is often referred to as “wings” or “bat wings,” and for many patients it is uncomfortable. Extra skin or tissue leads to rashes or skin infections in some patients. During the procedure, the plastic surgeon reduces pockets of fat in the upper arm that have become localized, or lumped together.
The arm lift procedure requires general anesthesia. Once the patient is anesthetized and comfortable, the surgery begins with an incision on the inside or back of the arm. The incision typically runs from the underarm to the elbow, and the length of the incision will depend on how much excess skin and fat is being removed. Depending on the amount of extra tissue in the upper arm area, the patient will decide to cut away the excess fat or use liposuction to remove and resculpt the area of treatment.
“During the brachioplasty procedure, the tissues of the upper on arm are reshaped and tightened through stitching,” says Dr. Jack Peterson, M.D., a Topeka, Kansas, plastic surgeon. “The arm lift is an ideal procedure for patients after they’ve reached their weight loss goals, or for anyone with loose, excess skin in the upper arms,” he explains. According to Peterson, brachioplasty patients should be in good health and nonsmoking, and should have reasonable expectations of the procedure, too. “Like any plastic surgery procedure, it is necessary to have a thorough consultation with the patient for their education and to find out their expectations of the procedure,” he advises.
After the excess skin and tissue are removed, and the remaining tissue is sutured to reshape the arm, the skin is smoothed over and tightened to reduce sagging. Once completed, the incisions are closed and the patient is given after care instructions. The entire procedure takes about two hours to performed, and patients are released to go home that same day.
Arm lift procedure patients should expect soreness, and some bruising and swelling after the procedure. Soreness, bruising and swelling typically take a few weeks to subside, and patients should wear a compression garment after the procedure as directed to help reduce fluid retention.
Patients should take care to not lift heavy object or do an arm workout until cleared by their physician,” says Peterson. Most patients are cleared for activity within two to three weeks after their procedure.
Result of the procedure will be noticeable soon after the surgery is completed, and patients will see the final result of their procedure within three to six months after surgery. Brachioplasty results are permanent unless the patient gains a significant amount of weight. “Once excess fat is removed, it doesn’t grow back,” says Peterson. However, existing fat cells may get larger, and results would then be compromised.