What You Need to Know About Brachioplasty

Doctor checking patient's elbow

A brachioplasty, or arm lift, is a cosmetic surgical procedure to remove sagging skin and fat from underneath the upper arm between the armpit and the elbow. Patients can develop saggy upper arm skin with age or after they lose a large amount of weight, especially if they’ve had weight-loss surgery.

While some patients choose to get a brachioplasty for cosmetic reasons to create a more toned arm appearance, it is often recommended for medical reasons. Loose, saggy skin can cause problems. Some people have trouble washing thoroughly, and the rubbing skin can cause irritation and rashes, which in turn could lead to open sores and infection.

With all of this in mind, here’s what you need to know about the brachioplasty procedure.

Before Surgery

When you visit your surgeon for a consultation before your brachioplasty, bring your prior medical records and a list of all medications and supplements you currently take. Your surgeon will discuss your medical history and lifestyle habits. They’ll also do a physical examination and take measurements and pictures of your arms and the surrounding areas.

Your surgeon will also ask you about your goals for surgery and discuss the results and risks associated with the procedure. You may have to undergo tests to make sure you’re a good candidate for surgery, such as blood work, a chest X-ray, and an electrocardiogram to check your heart.

You’ll be given a list of medications you need to start or stop taking before surgery. If you smoke, quit before you have surgery since smoking increases the risk of complications and slows wound healing.

During Surgery

Brachioplasty can be done under local anesthesia with sedation, which means your arm will be numb and you’ll be drowsy but not completely asleep. The procedure can also be performed with general anesthesia, which means you’re completely asleep for the procedure.

During the procedure, your surgeon will make an incision either on the inside or back of your arm. Your surgeon will remove excess fat and tighten the tissues under your skin, then pull your skin together, remove extra sagging skin, and stitch the incision closed.

After Surgery

Immediately following your brachioplasty surgery, you’ll go into a recovery room or area with bandages over your incisions. Your surgeon might wrap your arms in elastic bandages or put compression sleeves on your arms to minimize swelling. They will also place drainage tubes in your arms if needed.

Most brachioplasty procedures are outpatient surgeries, so most patients will go home the same day as their surgery.

You’ll need someone to drive you home after the surgery. Your surgeon will prescribe pain medication for you to take as needed for the first few days. You might also have a prescription for oral or topical antibiotics to prevent infection in your surgical wounds. Wear your compression sleeves as directed by your surgeon to help keep swelling down.

Most brachioplasty patients need at least two weeks of rest at home before they can begin to return to their normal activities. If your job is very active, you’ll need a longer recovery period.

You shouldn’t lift your arms higher than your shoulders for 3 to 4 weeks. Any activities that stretch the skin along your incisions should be avoided for 4 to 8 weeks after surgery.

Risks During and After Recovery

Like all surgeries, brachioplasty has risks, though most patients don’t experience any severe complications. During the recovery process, the biggest risk is infection. Follow your surgeon’s instructions about your bandages and cleaning your incisions. Contact your surgeon promptly if you experience redness around your incisions or have a fever.

Excessive bleeding, chest pains, shortness of breath, and irregular heartbeat are also signs of potentially serious complications for which you should seek prompt medical treatment.

You’ll have some scars along your incision sites, and some people develop thick or wide scars that are more noticeable. A very small number of patients experience nerve or muscle damage near the surgical site or damage to the lymphatic tissue, which can cause long-term swelling in the upper arm.

Dr. Christine Nygaard at the Renaissance Center for Facial and Body Sculpting offers body contouring, including brachioplasty, tummy tucks, and liposuction. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

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