What Is Brachioplasty?

Brachioplasty, also known as upper arm lift, is a surgical operation to reduce excess sagging, loose skin in the upper arms. This saggy skin may be the result of a significant weight loss or simply due to the loss of elasticity in the skin that occurs with age.

A brachioplasty procedure is relatively simple and is typically performed as an outpatient procedure under local anesthesia, which means you go home the same day as your surgery.

The number of people having an upper arm lift procedure is growing. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 338 brachioplasties took place in 2000. In 2006, the number was 14,886, a whopping 44 times as many! One reason the number of procedures has increased so rapidly is the rise in popularity of weight loss surgery such as stomach stapling. Many people who lose very large amounts of weight as a result of weight loss surgery end up with loose, sagging skin in several areas, including their upper arms. But even someone who has not lost a lot of weight may need an arm lift if aging and gravity have caused her or his skin to sag. This loose skin can be removed with brachioplasty, giving the upper arm a firm-looking and youthful appearance.

Brachioplasty is not intended to remove fat from the upper arm, but it can be combined with liposuction. The procedure will create some scars on the upper arms.

Are You a Candidate for Brachioplasty?

Deciding if you are a good candidate for cosmetic plastic surgery such as an upper arm lift is a complicated process. You must be in good overall health and free of any medical conditions that could complicate your surgery and recovery. If you have diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, bleeding disorders, or other conditions, you should consult with your physician. Tell your surgeon about any medications you take, including vitamins and herbal or nutritional supplements.

If you are still trying to lose a considerable amount of weight, it may be best to put off an upper arm lift until you reach your goal weight.

You should also be in good mental and emotional health. The healing process after a brachioplasty calls for patience and mental stability. Some people become depressed after surgery, and this temporary depression could worsen a pre-existing mental illness.

You must also have a realistic expectation of what an arm lift can do for your appearance before committing to a brachioplasty procedure. You should discuss the desired results with your surgeon to ensure that your goals can be attained through surgery. You and your surgeon should examine brachioplasty before-and-after photos to be sure you agree about how you will look after the surgery. Scarring is a significant factor in an arm lift. When you look at photos, make sure to look at the locations of the brachioplasty scars and their appearance.

Most upper arm lift procedures are done in a doctor's office or freestanding surgical center. Most people go home after the surgery. An arm lift can be combined with other cosmetic surgery, such as liposuction or breast enhancement surgery. If you are going home the same day as your surgery, you will need to arrange for someone to drive you.

Your medical insurance is unlikely to cover the costs of brachioplasty. You need to consider the costs of the surgery and any related fees before deciding on an arm lift. Financing is available for cosmetic surgery.

How a Brachioplasty Is Done

Those who are considering an upper arm lift should understand how the procedure is done. Arm lift surgery usually takes 1 to 2 hours, depending on the technique used and the amount of skin to be removed. Other cosmetic plastic surgery procedures, such as a liposuction or abdominoplasty, may be performed in conjunction with the arm lift, but this will lengthen your surgery.

In an arm lift, a plastic surgeon removes the sagging skin and other tissue by cutting it away and suturing the remaining skin to create a tight and smooth contour for the arm. For most people, the scar from brachioplasty will run from the armpit to the elbow, along the underside of the arm. People who need less skin removed may end up with a scar from the armpit to about halfway to the elbow, but someone with a very great deal of hanging skin may need to have a scar extending past the elbow.

There are several phases involved in the process of brachioplasty, including:

Preparation: This is the time when you will be "prepped" for surgery. Your surgeon will mark your arms with a permanent marker to indicate where the incisions will be made. Your skin will be scrubbed with an antimicrobial agent in order to minimize the risk of infection. An intravenous (IV) line will be started and, you will be hooked to monitors that will keep track of your blood pressure and heart rate.

Anesthesia: You should discuss the choice of anesthesia with your surgeon before the date of your arm lift. The usual anesthesia choices for an arm lift are general anesthesia or IV sedation (sometimes called "twilight sleep").

Arm Lift Surgery: Surgery begins after the anesthesia is administered. During an arm lift, your surgeon will carefully follow the premarked incision lines. During the procedure, excess skin is removed and the remaining skin is tightened to create a more attractive appearance.

The incisions are closed and a dressing is then applied to protect the wounds, keep the tissue securely in place, and to reduce swelling.

Recovery: During the recovery phase, you will be awakened and moved to a recovery room where staff will monitor you. During this time, you may experience some pain, nausea or uncontrollable shivering. Some people experience emotional anguish at this time. The staff can give you pain relievers, antinausea medications, warm blankets, or other comforts.

If you are going home the same day as your surgery, you will need a friend or family member to drive you. You may need some help around the house for a few days, since your arms will be sore.

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