Brachioplasty (Arm Lift)

Who is a candidate?

The arms are a focal point of fitness for both women and men. The best looking arms are ones that have toned muscles and taut skin.

While the muscles are dependent on how much they are exercised, the arm skin and fat can be more problematic.

Some women and men are genetically predisposed to carry more fat in their arms than others, so even when in shape their arms leave a bit to be desired.

Other women and men simply have excess skin, or the waddle that waves more vigorously with arm movement. Common reasons for having an arm lift, or brachioplasty, include:

  • Loose skin on upper arms
  • Excess fat upper arms (giving rounded appearance to shoulders)

Will insurance cover arm lifts?

In the vast majority of cases, insurance will not cover an arm lift. The exceptions are patients who have limited arm function due to the severity of excess skin.

Examples are when the skin gets in the way of the patient working or doing activities of daily living. Often this degree of excess skin is in a massive weight loss patient that experience rapid weight loss.

If your symptoms suggest you may be a candidate, and you meet specific criteria laid out by your specific insurance plan, our office will submit for preauthorization on your behalf.

Risks of arm lift (brachioplasty)

The standard surgical risks include pain; bleeding; infection; scarring; wide, painful or hypertrophic scarring; hematoma; seroma; injury to vessels, nerves, surrounding structures; asymmetry; poor cosmetic result; prolonged edema, numbness, parasthesias; loss of skin; contour irregularity; need for further procedure and out of pocket costs; and risks of anesthesia.

Postoperative follow-up visits

Visits following surgery typically occur the day after surgery (for dressing change and making sure there was no bleeding, fluid collection, or blood supply issues overnight), the week after surgery (for removal of drains if present), 2 weeks after that, and then spread out less frequently thereafter.

The schedule is adjusted based on doctor/patient preferences and needs.

Scars for arm lift (brachioplasty)

It is worth mentioning that the scars from arm lift surgery are one of the most important things to consider when deciding on whether or not you want to have this surgery.

The incisions typically extend from the chest or axilla (underarms) all the way to the elbow.

Attempts are made to place the incision along the inner arm in a way that makes it difficult to see the scar from the front or back when the arms are down, but this is not possible in every case.

Also, it is normal for the scar to go through several phases during normal wound healing, including a pink or purple phase.

The arm scars also have a greater tendency than other body areas to form thick pink ropey scars, likely because the arms are not given much rest and the scars are fighting movement as they heal and mature.

Close followup is recommended to treat any issues that may arise, including treating the incisions with steroid injections or tape, silicone gel or tape, compression, or some combination of the above to optimize their appearance.

In some cases, scar revision may be necessary at a later date. In general, the arm scars take a year to really fade and mature. Sun protection over the incisions is recommended at all times.

Recovery time

After surgery you will have one drain in each arm, exiting the skin near the elbow. The arms are typically wrapped with gentle compression immediately after surgery, and changed to an arm garment sometime between the day after surgery and the following week, depending on swelling.

Intermittently elevating the arms and walking the day of surgery is recommended. You may shower 24 hours after the drains have been removed. No baths, soaking in tubs, hot tubs, or swimming pools until incisions are fully healed.

Gentle soap (non-perfumed, non-irritating soap preferred) and water over the incision is okay. Scar gel may be used starting 2 weeks after surgery or once incisions have no open areas, crusting, or scabs.

In general, Dr. Patel recommends avoiding exercise and heavy lifting (>15 pounds) for 6 weeks following surgery, at which time you can ease back into your workouts.

Light activity that does not involve working your arms is okay. Activity should be limited to small periods with adequate rest in between.

You may return to work 1-2 weeks after surgery, depending on your pain level, stamina, and activities required in your occupation. You may drive once you are no longer taking pain medication. If you notice any numbness or tingling in the fingers or hands, you should notify Dr. Patel. All recovery processes and recommendations vary patient to patient, so these general guidelines may not apply to every patient.