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Brachioplasty - Arm Lift


                                                     Brachioplasty or Arm Lift Surgery

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Arm lift or brachioplasty procedure is a fairly common surgery to help remove loose skin and excess fat deposits that are stored in the upper arm area.  As we age, the upper arm skin can become lax, loose and flabby. This problem is seen quite frequently with patients who have had extreme weight loss or gastric bypass. Once the skin has been stretched out, it has a harder time with retracting and tightening up which will lead to sagging.

An arm lift or brachioplasty:

  • Reduces excess skin and fat between the underarm and the elbow

  • Reshapes your am to result in smoother skin and contours

  • Results in a more tones and proportionate appearance





A brachioplasty procedure can be performed in four different ways:

Depending on how much skin laxity is present will determine which method would be the most effective procedure.


                                           Before and After Standard Brachioplasty

                                          Copyright 2010 MAYO CLINIC - Used with permission               

                                             Before and After Standard Brachioplasty



The mini or axillary brachioplasty procedure may be performed when there is small amount of skin laxity - and the hanging skin is located within two inches from the armpit. In these cases an incision is made with in the arm pit and along the arm pit crease. Liposuction is sometimes performed during this procedure for additional contouring of the arm. 


                                                  Axillary or Mini Brachioplasty Incision

                                                      Image courtesy: Barbara Jemec

                                                     Axillary or Mini Brachioplasty



A full brachioplasty is necessary when there is too much excess skin and fat through out the arm.  An incision is made along the inner portion of the arm from the axillary area to the elbow and excess skin and fat are removed. The incision is well hidden and will not be visible with the arms at the side in the resting position. However, there will be some scar show with wearing a sleeveless dress or top (when moving the arms).  A “T” shaped scar is usually visible afterwards. 

Liposuction is sometimes added for helping with contouring the arms. Although Liposuction is not an essential part of a brachioplasty, some surgeons use this to help dissect and separate the deep tissue from the skin flaps. 


                     Full or Standard Brachioplasty

                                               Copyright 2010 -

                                                  Full or Standard Brachioplasty



An extended brachioplasty or arm lift has the incision extending from the elbow to the armpit and along the outer sides of the chest to the level of the horizontal bra strap. The extended brachioplasty enables the reduction of the upper torso (chest area) and bra strap area so that the patient can fit better with certain clothing.  A "L" shaped scar us usually visible afterwards.


                     Extended Brachioplasty - Incision extends into the chest area

                                          Copyright 2010 -                                  

                             Extended Brachioplasty - Incision extends into the chest area




The only time liposuction is a better choice is when there is a lot of fat, but the skin is tight. It is not a choice if your problem is due to loose skin.  An arm lift is the best choice when the skin is loose.





The incisions are closed mostly with dissolvable sutures and more than likely the patient will have drains to help reduce the amount of edema or swelling that might occur.

The entire procedure of an arm lift takes approximately an hour per arm.  The surgeon makes zigzag, elliptical or triangular incisions along the inner surface of upper arm.  The space contained between the incisions is exactly the area of skin that would be removed.  If the patient needs to have fat reduced in the upper arm area, liposuction is used. The underlying supportive tissue is tightened and reshaped with internal sutures.  Overlying skin is smoothed over the new contour of the arm with excess skin reduced. 

Dissolvable sutures are used to close the incision and either fibrin tissue glue or stitches will be used to close the outer portion.  If sutures are used, these will be removed within one to two weeks following the brachioplasty procedure.  A pressure compression garment or elastic bandage is applied to promote healthy healing.





Different incision sites for the various types of brachioplasty performed.


  • Mini or Axillary Brachioplasty

                                Before Brachioplasty        After Brachioplasty

                                                  Copyright 2010 ASAPS - Used with permission           

                                             Before Surgery                                 After Surgery



  • Full or Standard Brachioplasty

                               Before Standard or Full Brachioplasty          After Full or Standard Brachioplasty

                                                   Copyright 2010 ASAPS - Used with permission                        

                                          Before Surgery                                     After Surgery



  • Extended Brachioplasty

                               Before Extended Brachioplasty           After Extended Brachioplasty

                                                 Copyright 2010 ASAPS - Used with permission                    

                                          Before Surgery                                      After Surgery





Patients who are good candidates for an arm lift:

  • Adults of any age whose weight is stable and not significantly overweight

  • Healthy individuals who do not have medical conditions that could possibly increase the risk of surgery

  • Patients who do not smoke

  • Patients who are emotional and mentally stable with a positive outlook with realistic goals for what an arm lift can accomplish

  • Patients who are committed to a healthy lifestyle with the proper nutrition and fitness program


Patients who are NOT a good candidate for an arm lift:

  • This surgery is not suitable after a mastectomy (breast removal) for breast cancer or operations in the axilla lymph nodes. Those with multiple infections of the sweat glands may also not be candidates for brachioplasty. This is because there may be problems with draining the fluids from your arms as a result of your previous surgery. If you were to have another operation, your arms could swell very badly and this may be permanent.

  • Having a brachioplasty is not an alternative to losing weight.  Most surgeons will suggest alternatives to surgery for patients who are more than 15 percent over their ideal body weight.

  • If the patient is in the middle of losing weight, it is best to first lose the weight before having this surgery.

  • Patients who easily develop keloid scars might not be a suitable candidate for this surgery, as the scars could have the potential of being unsightly.





Brachioplasty Advantages

  • Directly removes excess skin and fat of arms

  • Firms and tightens arms

  • Tones and defines arms with liposuction


Brachioplasty Disadvantages

  • Brachioplasty scars tend to be some of the more noticeable scars left after cosmetic plastic surgery.  The scars tend to widen and stay more red than typical scars.  Still many patients find this an acceptable trade-off in order to rid themselves of all the loose skin.

  • Severe swelling

  • Bleeding and or hematoma








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