Both men and women alike typically want toned, taut upper arms. Unfortunately, this sleek and toned look can be difficult to achieve for a number of different reasons. When positive lifestyle choices fail to produce the intended results, surgical intervention may be the only way to guarantee an improved aesthetic of the arms. Brachioplasty (arm lift) is a plastic surgery designed to improve the contour of the upper arms for a slimmer, more athletic look. This effective procedure is available with Dr. Kristin Boehm at Premier Image Cosmetic Surgery of Atlanta, GA.
Changes in the Look of the Arms
Following a major weight loss, either through bariatric surgery or modifications in diet and exercise, people will typically notice significant changes in their body beyond the weight loss itself. Experiencing weight loss success and a lighter frame can be thrilling and liberating, but skin often hangs loosely in certain areas of the body after extra bulk is eliminated. The fat cells that cause skin to expand during weight gain may not retract fully, hiding the new contours of the arms. Even young people may develop issues with skin laxity due to the skin stretching beyond its maximum capacity. Once this occurs, most people will require cosmetic surgery to fully enjoy the cosmetic benefits of weight loss.
Another reason that patients come to Premier Image to request arm lift surgery is due to aging skin that no longer holds its shape. In these cases, loose, flabby upper arm skin results from stretching of the anchoring system of the arm and loss of supporting fat. Arms may display an undesirable “loose hammock” or “batwing” appearance, though generally sparing the forearms from the elbow to the wrists. As we grow older, our bodies do not produce the quality and quantity of collagen and elastin of our youth. Collagen is the fibrous protein substance necessary for skin firmness and elasticity. As collagen production slows down, skin begins to sag and lose its flexibility and resilience. Its partner in skin structure, elastin is also a protein that is most commonly found in the dermis, or deepest layer of skin. Though decreases in collagen and elastin are an unfortunate yet natural byproduct of the aging process, unprotected sun exposure and smoking are two preventable factors that can accelerate this process.
In either case, both changes in the body cause the skin of the arms to hang loosely away from tissues like muscle and bone. Below the skin is the layer of fat, and when not secured by the skin, irregular fat deposits and cellulite can be more apparent. This, coupled with loose skin, can affect the look of a person’s figure, causing the arms to appear larger than they really are.
Why Undergo Arm Lift Surgery?
Carrying around extra skin and stubborn fat on isolated areas of the body can be very uncomfortable. Skin folds may collect bacteria and sweat, causing irritation that can be difficult to control. This can lead to a breakdown of the skin that becomes prone to infection. Loose skin can also rub against clothing which causes chafing and may cause discomfort during normal arm movements.
Most clothing is not designed to accommodate extra upper arm bulk. Prior to brachioplasty, patients may wear clothing that is ill-fitting elsewhere because only larger sizes fit over the larger upper arms. Because people cannot fully enjoy the look of their weight loss when they are unable to wear items to fit their new form, cosmetic surgery can be an essential last step of a body-contouring makeover.
Those of a healthy weight or slimmed areas of the body will notice that prior to arm lift, the upper arms appear disproportionate to the rest of the body. Even with other improvements, they may focus on the appearance of the arms. While loose skin and extra fat can cause the upper arms to appear deflated, they can also look bigger than they actually are.
How is an Arm Lift Surgery Performed?
There are two main goals during brachioplasty: fat removal and skin removal to contour the upper arms. The doctor begins the process by creating an incision in each arm, suctioning out unwanted fat deposits through liposuction. Next, sagging skin is trimmed away to create an attractive contour and reveal the true size of the upper arms. Generally, the forearms are not affected by the factors that lead to excess tissues spanning the shoulders to elbows.
During a full upper arm lift, the doctor creates an incision from the underarm to the elbow. The patients who tend to be best suited for the more extensive version of the procedure have undergone an extreme weight loss or find that their arms have changed drastically due to aging. A mini arm lift or short scar arm lift is the second variation of the procedure, where a surgical cut is created in the underarm. Generally, this procedure is best for cases of moderate excess skin and fat. The incision can be fully hidden for a more discreet procedure, though the surgical changes are less dramatic.
One important consideration during brachioplasty is symmetry. Because two features are being altered at once, the procedure must be completed to produce two matching features. The doctor may use a surgical blueprint marked on the arms with a special marker, visual cues, and the weight of removed tissues to produce the best results.
The Arm Lift Healing Process
Post-surgery, arm lift patients will experience some discomfort that can be controlled with pain medications. Bandages will cover the upper arms following the procedure, which are then replaced with surgical garments that help support the arms’ new shape while controlling swelling. Most patients can go back to work in about a week and require between 4-6 weeks of recovery to return to full use of their arms. Swelling and bruising will subside over time, and the scars may require months until they have faded to their final appearance. It can take up to 6 months for the arms to reach their final look.
Is an Arm Lift Right for Me?
Those who are interested in reshaping their upper arms with brachioplasty should schedule a consultation with Dr. Kristin Boehm at Premier Image Cosmetic Surgery in Atlanta, GA. The doctor will assess the tissues of the arm and determine if cosmetic correction would best suit the patient’s needs. It is important for him to determine the elasticity of the skin and if other procedures may be more beneficial or should be combined with arm lift surgery. Patients also need to be healthy enough to undergo elective surgery and be non-smokers or willing to quit several weeks before the procedure.
Arm Lift FAQs
After full upper arm lift, how can I reduce area scarring?
When Dr. Boehm creates the initial incisions, she is careful to provide as much concealment of the incisions as possible. During the healing process, patients should follow post-surgical instructions and continue to practice healthy lifestyle habits. Cleaning the surgery site as instructed helps prevent infection, which can negatively impact the final look of the scars and pose a risk to the patient. Patients should also make an effort to avoid direct sunlight and massage the scar tissue as directed. During the healing process, patients can apply silicone sheets to the forming scars to provide the tissue with components essential to the skin’s recovery process. Once the scars have healed, scar revision surgery and laser skin resurfacing are two treatment options that can further help minimize the look of scars, if necessary. Most patients feel that any necessary scarring is worth the results of the procedure.
When is the best time to undergo brachioplasty?
Patients should wait until they have reached their ideal weight to have arm lift surgery. This is because their anatomy can continue to change, and the procedure is not ideal for a changing form. Additionally, there are other options available for patients to postpone this procedure until their later years if the intention is to treat age-related changes in the arms. Skin-tightening procedures like BodyTite may be a great alternative for minimal concerns of the upper arms.
How much skin and fat is removed during the surgery?
The results of the procedure will vary by each patient, but generally the outcome is slimming by inches, from a few to several. The amount of tissue removed will depend on the condition of the individual patient’s upper arms.
Can surgery eliminate stretch marks on the upper arms?
Stretch marks are actually scars that form in the skin when it has been stretched beyond capacity, most often over a short period of time. Stretch marks are common in growing kids and teens, weight-lifters, pregnant women, and those who have gained weight. Arm lift surgery can eliminate some of the skin that contains these marks, but it should not be considered a stretch mark treatment option. Laser skin resurfacing is a better way to address this type of scarring.
Are arm lift results permanent?
Brachioplasty is intended to create long lasting results. If a person gains weight and then loses it, the arms can be impacted by the changes. Arm lift will restore the arms to a more youthful state, but it cannot halt the aging process.
Do my forearms need to be treated, too?
In unique cases, the forearms may require surgical alteration. In these patients, the procedure is similar to that performed on the upper arms. The incision may span to the forearm, or an additional surgical cut will be created on this area of the arm. However, most patients only need to have the upper arms addressed.
Kristin A. Boehm, M.D., FACS – Premier Image Cosmetic & Laser Surgery
Kristin A. Boehm, M.D., FACS, is a plastic surgeon in Atlanta certified by both the American Board of Plastic Surgery and the American Board of Surgery. She is a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the Southeastern Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons, and the American College of Surgeons. She is a member of the Emerging Trends Committee with the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, which looks into new and innovative technologies. She has served as a key opinion leader on facial injectables and tissue adhesives and has been an advisory board member for a dermal filler company. Dr. Boehm performs a full array of breast, and body contouring surgeries with a focus on aesthetic enhancement and rejuvenation. To schedule a private consultation, contact Premier Image Cosmetic & Laser Surgery at 770-457-6303 or the Contact form.