Brachioplasty, more commonly known as an arm lift, is a cosmetic procedure meant to reshape and improve the contour of the upper arm. While the term frequently describes an operation on the upper arm, it can also pertain to any arm reshaping procedure in general. Brachioplasty is performed mostly in men and women who have lost a huge amount of weight. It is used to correct the so-called “bat-wing” deformity which pertains to the hanging skin on the upper arms resulting from massive weight loss.
Patients who usually require brachioplasty are the moderately obese ones who recently lost anywhere from 150 to 200 pounds of weight and therefore have hanging skin. The procedure is also suited for women whose arms sag down as a result of aging. In such cases, the surgeon can perform a combination of liposuction and brachioplasty.
Brachioplasty is typically used for patients who have undergone bariatric surgery. These people usually have a lot of hanging skin as a result of the operation. It is also for patients who have gotten older and whose skin is now hanging. Women who have larger arms are not necessarily good candidates because, most of the time, their problem can be dealt with by performing liposuction of the arms.
Although brachioplasty can pertain to any surgical arm recontouring procedure, surgeons and patients refer to it as a regular or traditional arm lift. A regular arm lift involves removal of the excess skin resulting in a scar that runs from the armpit area down to the bottom of the upper arm.
Brachioplasty differs from a mini-arm lift in the sense that the latter requires the removal of fat deposits prior to managing the loose skin that results from it. In other words, a mini-arm lift is a combination of liposuction and a skin tightening procedure. The loose skin is pulled into the underarms so that the scar is just under the arm and the armpit. In brachioplasty, there is no fat removal step involved since the massive weight loss has already taken care of that. The surgeon goes straight to removing the hanging skin on the upper arms.
Patients think they are not going to have scars with brachioplasty, but this is not true. In a brachioplasty procedure, the scar goes all the way down the inside of the arm resulting in a very bad scar. In fact, the tighter the surgeon makes the arm then the worse the resulting scar is because the skin is under a lot of tension.
Both men and women patients think “I do not like my arms” or “I want to wear sleeveless shirts again,” but are dissatisfied with the results because of the scarring. The dissatisfaction rate with brachioplasty is actually much higher than just about any other plastic surgery procedure. Even when patients are told about the scarring beforehand, it is still very common for them to be unhappy with the results.
Because of the ugly scarring from brachioplasty, the mini-arm lift has gained popularity. However, it only works well on mild to moderate cases of deformity such as the “bat-wing” deformity. A surgeon cannot do a mini-arm lift on someone whose skin is hanging down to the floor. The advantage of a mini-arm lift is that the scarring is just under the armpit and can be seen only if the patient raises his/her arm.
The cost of a brachioplasty procedure depends on how much work is needed. Arm lifts can be done as an outpatient procedure or as an operation which requires a short hospital stay. For significant deformities, such as when a patient needs an incision all the way down the arm, the cost is somewhere between $10,000 and $15,000. Mini-arm lifts, on the other hand, are much cheaper at $5,000 to $6,000 in the United States.
The biggest side effect of an arm lift is the painful scars. Asymmetry is a common side effect, but since most arms are asymmetric anyway, this is not much of a problem unless it is too obvious. Other side effects include swelling of the arms and hands, bruising and some skin irregularities like dimpling. The irregularities are frequently seen in patients who underwent liposuction first.
Following a brachioplasty procedure, the patient is advised to wear a compression garment on the arms to decrease swelling. How long it needs to be worn depends on how much liposuction was done, if any, and how much residual swelling is present. Generally speaking, patients will be asked to wear the garments for at least 12 hours a day during the first 3 weeks. At least 2 to 3 weeks of recovery is needed with no exercising for 4 to 6 weeks.
The results produced by brachioplasty, regular or mini, are generally permanent unless the patient fluctuates significantly in weight. In other words, if the patient puts on another 25 or 50 pounds then the results might disappear. Improvements can be seen within the first month but it takes at least a full year to see the final results.
Brachioplasty is a useful surgical procedure that helps a patient reshape their arm. Hanging skin is a condition that is not easily solved through simple diet and exercise. The use of this surgical procedure is an effective means to improve the contour of the upper arm. Consulting with an experienced doctor will help a person determine if they are a viable candidate for the procedure.
Written by Cosmetic Town Editorial Team - AA
Based on an exclusive interview with Dr. Shatkin in Weston, FL