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Arm Lift (Brachioplasty)

An arm lift, or brachioplasty, is a procedure designed to contour the upper arm region. When fat accumulates in the upper arm, the skin can stretch and loosen—often causing a loss of shape or a hanging arm appearance. Brachioplasty can remove excess skin and fat that may be compromising a sculpted look in the arms, as well as circumferentially tighten the underlying supportive tissue. Board-certified plastic surgeon David Bottger, MD performs arm lift surgery at his Philadelphia practice, and can personalize the procedure to restore definition and shape to the arms.

What Can an Arm Lift Accomplish?

Brachioplasty can comprehensively treat the skin, fat, and supportive structures of the upper arms to produce a tighter, more defined look. As the effects of gravity, weight fluctuation, and the natural aging process cause the supportive tissues of the arm to descend, an arm lift can combat the increased skin laxity that occurs over time. An arm lift is currently the only procedure designed to:

Since a sagging look is usually caused by drooping arm skin and stubborn fat, the concerns treated during brachioplasty often cannot be corrected with dieting and exercise alone. Arm lift surgery is typically very effective for patients who have inelastic skin that is no longer able to contract around the contours of the arm.

Who is a Candidate for Arm Lift Surgery?

The best results from an arm lift are seen in patients who are at a healthy weight and simply seeking to tighten their arm shape. In addition, arm lift patients should:

Men and women who have loose skin from significant weight loss are typically excellent candidates for an arm lift. If the arms exhibit good skin tone and the only concern is excess fat, liposuction alone can provide a beautiful contour. However, if there is significant skin laxity or sagging, as frequently occurs with massive weight loss or aging, a brachioplasty will be able to achieve more comprehensive enhancement.

How is Arm Lift Surgery Performed?

The arm lift procedure can be performed under local anesthesia with sedation, but more commonly utilizes general anesthesia. Surgery involves an incision in the inner upper arm region, which allows excision of loose, hanging skin and subsequent tightening of this region. Depending on the degree of fat excess in the arm, liposuction may also be included in the treatment plan to further contour the arm. This body contouring surgery is usually performed on an outpatient basis and does not require an overnight stay.

What is Recovery From an Arm Lift Like?

Following the procedure, a surgical wrap or compression garment will be worn to protect your incisions and help facilitate your new arm shape. Drains may be placed to decrease fluid buildup, and one of our nurses will show you how to care for your drains after the procedure. The results are often noticeable immediately, although the final outcome will likely be obscured by post-surgical swelling. This swelling will subside as your body heals and the results will improve over time. Patients typically return to work within one week, with a full return to your daily routine expected after two weeks. Exercise should be avoided for at least four weeks, or until Dr. Bottger advises otherwise.

How Long Do Arm Lift Results Last?

The outcome of arm lift surgery generally remains stable indefinitely as long as patients do not experience major fluctuations in their weight. Unfortunately, repetitive weight gain and loss can lead to changes in the arm shape, potentially resulting in lax skin and the same concerns that were originally treated with brachioplasty in the first place. While a loss of firmness to some degree is normal as individuals continue to experience the effects of aging, the results of the procedure should be long-lasting with an active lifestyle and a stable weight.

Will I Have Arm Lift Scars?

The incision for brachioplasty is made on the inner arm and the resulting scar will extend from the underarms to the elbow region. Dr. Bottger positions incisions so they are not readily visible when the arms are at the sides, allowing scarring to remain inconspicuous. To further decrease the prominence of your scars, Dr. Bottger will give you instructions on proper wound care to enable optimal healing of your incisions. Applying skin creams and sun protection can also encourage surgical scars to fade somewhat over time.

Are There Potential Complications With an Arm Lift?

Risks and complications associated with any cosmetic surgery include, but are not limited to, infection, bleeding (hematoma), skin loss, numbness, and unfavorable scarring. Potential issues unique to brachioplasty include contouring irregularities. Smoking significantly increases the risk of skin necrosis (death) and delayed wound healing, so Dr. Bottger advises abstaining from tobacco use at least six weeks before surgery. Although possible, significant complications are uncommon. The key to maximizing your health and safety during brachioplasty is choosing an experienced, qualified plastic surgeon who you can trust to achieve the desired results. Selecting a board-certified plastic surgeon accredited by the American Board of Plastic Surgery to perform your arm lift can greatly minimize the likelihood of potential problems.

How Much Does Brachioplasty Cost?

The cost of an arm lift can start at $10,540 depending on the details of your procedure, a range that includes fees for the surgical facility, anesthesia, post-operative care, and other related expenses. Other factors that can affect your cost estimate include whether additional liposuction was incorporated into your procedure, and the type of incision utilized. After your needs are evaluated by Dr. Bottger in a consultation, our patient care coordinator will be able to provide you with a personalized quote of your treatment along with your financial options. We accept plastic surgery financing plans from CareCredit®, a respected lending institution that can make the cost of an arm lift more affordable for qualified patients who would rather pay in low monthly installments. For more information about the price of an arm lift or our accepted payment methods, please call our practice to speak to a member of our office.

Combining an Arm Lift with Other Procedures

As a procedure that’s commonly part of more extensive treatment plans, such as a Mommy Makeover or a body lift, brachioplasty can be an effective complement to adjunctive body contouring procedures. In many cases, combining multiple treatment options can allow patients to achieve even greater improvement while only having to undergo one surgery and recovery period.

For patients who have had bariatric surgery or who have lost a significant amount of weight, a body lift can allow you to address multiple areas of the body typically affected by loose skin and localized fat. This treatment plan is completely personalized to your needs and goals, and may reshape the buttocks, abdomen, and/or thighs depending on your concerns. Alternatively, individuals who have had children and would like to resolve the physical changes that often result from pregnancy and nursing may be interested in a Mommy Makeover. Similar to a body lift, a Mommy Makeover is customized to address your unique areas of concern and potential treatment options may include a tummy tuck, liposuction, and/or a breast lift. Dr. Bottger can listen to your concerns and review the best combination of cosmetic procedures to achieve your goals.

Is a Non-Surgical Arm Lift Possible?

An arm lift tightens the shape of the arm by surgically removing excess skin and tissue. Unfortunately, there is no technique that can effectively remove loose, stretched arm skin using minimally invasive treatments. Skin inelasticity in the arms is also typically accompanied by weakened musculature, and there is no non-surgical approach that can restore support for the upper arms in the same way as brachioplasty. That said, the exact results of brachioplasty cannot be replicated without surgery. While non-surgical procedures aren’t able to reshape the upper arms, Dr. Bottger encourages you to communicate your goals and preferences during a consultation so he can identify the best treatment to address your concerns.

Additional Arm Lift FAQs

Can I gain weight after brachioplasty?

Yes, brachioplasty does not prevent patients from gaining weight after the procedure. Any additional weight gain after an arm lift may affect the results of your surgery, so we encourage patients to maintain an active lifestyle and keep their weight as stable as possible.

When can I workout after brachioplasty?

In general, patients are often able to exercise approximately four weeks after arm lift surgery. This timeline varies based on each person’s unique rate of healing, so some individuals may be able to workout relatively sooner (or later) than others. Dr. Bottger will evaluate your concerns and let you know what to expect with regard to activity restrictions during your recovery period. Once you’re cleared to resume your fitness regimen, it’s often helpful to start with low-impact workouts to see how your body responds and slowly work your way to performing more strenuous activity.

Will arm exercises get rid of hanging skin?

No, workouts that target the upper arms will not improve the appearance of excess skin. These exercises may strengthen the biceps and build muscle, but there is no non-surgical means of removing loose, stretched skin caused by weight loss or the natural aging process. If loose, hanging tissue is present, working out will not alleviate the loss of tone often experienced in the arms over time. Only brachioplasty or a similar body contouring procedure that restores circumferential support can eliminate hanging skin from the upper arms.

Does insurance cover brachioplasty?

Unfortunately, insurance doesn’t cover cosmetic procedures like arm lift surgery since these treatments are not considered medically necessary. However, brachioplasty can be made more affordable with financing options via CareCredit® — a trusted healthcare lending company often utilized for aesthetic treatments and procedures. Once approved, patients can select from the best short- or long-term payment plan for their budgetary concerns, allowing a more manageable method of payment than a lump sum upfront. Please contact our office if you have any questions about plastic surgery financing.

When is the best time for an arm lift?

Undergoing an arm lift at the right time can help maximize the longevity of the results. For this reason, Dr. Bottger typically recommends pursuing brachioplasty only after patients have no future plans for pregnancy or significant weight loss. These factors have a tendency to reduce tone and skin elasticity, so postponing the procedure until your weight is relatively stable can help maintain the integrity of your final results.

If you are in the Philadelphia, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, or West Chester areas and would like to know more about the arm lift procedure, please contact our brachioplasty surgeon today.