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Brachioplasty - Arm Lift Recovery


                           Brachioplasty or Arm Lift Recovery

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The recovery period for a brachioplasty ranges from one week for a mini or a limited brachioplasty to three weeks for a full brachioplasty. During the first two weeks, most surgeons want the patient to elevate their arms above their heart to help reduce the chance of swelling. While each patient is unique with their own recovery time, most are back to full activities within three to four weeks post operative - and back to their normal exercise program by six weeks. Wearing the compression garment for the first couple of months following surgery will help the skin contour to its new shape. 

Your surgeon might have placed surgical drains to help reduce edema from building up after the procedure. A small, thin tube may be temporarily placed under the skin to drain any excess blood or fluid that may collect. You will need to monitor the out put of the fluid in these drains for the surgeon.

The surgical dressing may look extensive after the brachioplasty because of the compression garment. The compression garment does protect the incisions after the surgery and helps the skin to retract back to its new contour and shape. Limiting any physical exercise is going to be beneficial for the patient, especially any lifting. Elevation with pillows will help increase comfort.



Recovery after liposuction of the upper arm is also very similar to liposuction of other areas of the body. Almost all patients are fitted with a compression garment that is worn for at least two weeks after the procedure. A noticeable change in the appearance of the arms should be expected soon after. Most patients can return to work within a few days of the surgery.



  • The First 24 Hours...

What to expect during the first 24 hours following surgery:

  • Patients need to make arrangements for an responsible adult family member or friend to bring you to the surgery center and to also take you home following the brachioplasty. After surgery, this caregiver will  need to stay with you for a minimum of 24 hours following surgery.

  • After you arrive home from the procedure, you will be instructed to rest for the first couple of days following surgery. Bed rest is not mandatory but it is necessary that the patient take things easy. Walking around the house is encouraged to help with circulation. Drinking water with lemon will help reduce post operative swelling.

  • Drinking fluids is encouraged, as you do not want to become dehydrated. Monitor the level of hydration with making sure you are urinating "light color urine" every four to six hours.

  • Eating after your surgery should be with foods that are not greasy or acidic. Being nauseated after surgery is a common occurrence so making sure you eat foods that are easy on your system will help your stomach.

  • Drainage from the surgical site during the first 24 hours is to be expected. Having some blood tinged drainage is normal. If you are having excessive bleeding that you cannot stop or control, you need to call your surgeon immediately.

  • Your arms will be placed in a compression garment after surgery. You will be instructed not to remove the garment until the first post operative visit.  Keep your arms straight is important too.

  • No extra activities or exercising for the first three weeks. Walking however is encouraged during recovery.

  • Your surgeon will let you know when you can get back to your exercise routine. Most surgeons like to have their patients at least six weeks post operative before any strenuous exercising is done. Always check with your own plastic surgeon first before attempting to do anything.

  • Following your physician’s instructions is key to the success of your surgery. It is important that the surgical incisions are not subjected to excessive force, swelling, abrasion, or motion during the time of healing.



Patients will be instructed to avoid all aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications for the first few days after the arm lift procedure. Your surgeon will give you a list of medications to stay away from during the pre-operative period as well. It is important that you listen to what your surgeon has asked of you, so that no unforeseen complications can arise during or after surgery. Smoking and exposure to second hand smoke may interfere with the healing process and should be avoided.

The following should be stopped for at least one to two weeks prior to surgery:

  • any aspirin containing medication

  • non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs

  • herbal supplements

  • vitamin E

  • alcohol

  • tobacco products

  • decrease sodium

Check the Medication to Avoid List




It is imperative to wear the compression sleeves or similar compression during the recovery process. Compression helps to minimize swelling, encourage tightening of the skin, and minimize the risk for bleeding or a possible hematoma or seromaAlthough short-sleeve compression garments may be more comfortable, particularly during the summer months, it’s a good idea to ask your plastic surgeon which type of garment is best for you. Compression garments are typically worn continuously for several weeks, so you should purchase more than one.


                                     Compression Garment for Brachioplasty Procedure  


                            Compression Garment for Brachioplasty Procedure

                                           Image photo courtesy of


Compression garments are normally recommended after the brachioplasty procedure. Patients are instructed to wear it continuously for the first several days - or possibly longer depending on your surgeon's post operative instructions. These garments are to be worn even while sleeping and only to be removed for showering.




Pain is subjective and will vary from patient to patient, as everyone's pain threshold is different from one another. Most patients undergoing an upper arm reduction procedure will normally require a few days of narcotic pain medication to treat any discomfort they might have. During the seven to ten day period following the surgical procedure, most patients resolve the majority of their discomfort. 

An On-Q local anesthetic pain pump and drain may be used to help with the healing process for the first few days after arm lift surgery. 




Some surgeons will recommend improving lymphatic drainage and decreasing swelling and bruising through a series of lymphatic drainage massage treatments. These treatments can be performed once week for three weeks. Also, massage therapy is offered in some surgeon's offices to help reduce the scarring. Patients are encouraged to massage their brachioplasty scars once the sutures have been removed.

Scar massage can usually begin three to four weeks post operative. The scars are initially red and raised, but as time goes by with the recovery period they will flatten and fade over the course of the year. During the first year, the final arm shape will be achieved. If any revisions are necessary, most surgeons would like to have the patient wait anywhere from six to twelve months before doing any further surgical procedures.

The recovery period following a brachioplasty procedure can be slow, however the return of normal function of the arms and hands are seen within a couple of weeks and it can take several months to see how the scars from this procedure will evolve.

There are many different scar treatments that are available as well, that can be utilized once the incision is fully healed.

Read about different scar treatments




There are a couple of drawbacks with having a brachioplasty - the lengthy recovery time and the long visible scars should be considered. However, brachioplasty can be a very rewarding procedure for the patient who has undergone massive weight loss and they are trying to reclaim their body.  The self confidence to wear a wider variety of clothing including sleeveless tops and swimsuits can be overwhelming.







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