Definition & Overview

An upper arm lift, also called brachioplasty, is a cosmetic surgical procedure that aims to remove excess skin from the shoulder to the elbow and tighten the muscles in the area to achieve a toned and more balanced appearance.

The procedure is one of your options in eliminating stubborn fat in the upper arms as well as unsightly sagging skin, which is typically the result when you lose a significant amount of weight. It can also be caused by aging and hereditary factors.

Just like any other surgical procedure, brachioplasty has its fair share of pros and cons that you must carefully weigh before undergoing the surgery. A highly qualified plastic surgeon will explain these to you in detail to help you make a well-informed decision.

Who should undergo and expected results

Ideal candidates for an upper arm lift are those who are not overweight but have unwanted, stubborn fat in the area that makes their body look disproportionate. It is crucial for the candidates to be healthy, which means that they are not suffering from any medical condition that may increase the risks of surgery or impair the healing process. Patients must also be emotionally and psychologically prepared for the procedures. Individuals with realistic expectations and a positive outlook are also preferred.

How the procedure works

Prior to the procedure, a thorough physical examination will be conducted to determine if the surgery is your best option. The plastic surgeon will also review your medical history for any conditions and medications you are currently taking.

If the surgeon determines that you qualify for an arm lift, the possible risks and complications will be explained to you in detail. If you understand and accept these risks and wish to continue, you will be prepared for surgery.

The procedure will take around three hours and will be performed under general anaesthesia. The surgeon will create an incision from the inside portion of the upper arm all the way to the elbow. Excess fat will be removed through liposuction.

The surgeon will then tighten the muscles using sutures. This will also define the shape of your upper arm. Excess skin will then be removed and the incision will be stitched together. The surgeon will then insert a tube through the wound so that fluid will drain instead of building up.

After the operation, you can expect bruising and swelling in your upper arms. The dressing and bandages will reduce the swelling, but there will still be a bit of discomfort. You will also be given medications to control the pain so that the recovery process is more comfortable.

Once the surgeon has determined that your condition is stable and that you're on track to a full recovery, you will be allowed to continue recovering at home. It's imperative that you rest as much as possible to prevent the wound from being aggravated and to hasten the recovery process.

Your surgeon will provide you with instructions on how to take care of the wound. You will need to follow these instructions to ensure that the wounds heal completely.

If you follow the surgeon's instructions and you avoid any strenuous activities, you will reduce the risks of complications. However, if you experience severe pain or notice any bleeding, make sure that you inform your doctor immediately.

Possible risks and complications

Every type of surgical procedure has associated risks and possible complications. One of these is a possible allergic reaction to the anaesthesia. Although this rarely happens, it is still a possibility and it could be fatal. Other risks include, but are not limited to blood clots, stroke, fluid build-up, nerve damage, bleeding, infection, skin loss, and tissue death.

It is also important to understand that no plastic surgeon can provide you with a 100% guarantee that your desired results will be achieved which is why it is crucial to find the best cosmetic surgeon in your area to perform the procedure.

Meanwhile, if the best possible results were achieved, it is crucial to adopt a healthier lifestyle to keep your weight stable. Remember that the results of the procedure are not permanent. You can still gain unwanted fat on your upper arms after the procedure if you don't watch what you eat and if you don't exercise.

It is best to make sure that you discuss all the risks and possible complications particularly those that can be life-threatening such as stroke with your doctor before undergoing the procedure. You will need to know what to expect and what will happen if those expectations are not met.


  • American Society of Plastic Surgeons
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