Removing excess skin and fat of the upperm arms for aesthetic and functional benefit
Arm lift surgery tightens the skin of the upper arms by removing skin on the underside of the arms. It’s often combined with liposuction to enable more skin to be removed. It is primarily for patients who have lost weight and have excess skin hanging from their upper arms. It’s also useful for older people whose skin has become lax but haven’t necessarily been overweight. Patients that have excess fat on their arms but not excess skin, may benefit from just liposuction.
The scar runs from the elbow to the armpit and is on the inner aspect of the arm so that the scars are only visible if you raise your arms. Sometimes the scar crosses the armpit if loose skin extends to the chest wall.
Arm lift surgery takes about 3 hours and requires a general anaesthetic. It’s possible for it to be a day case procedure but if it’s combined with another procedure, I recommend at least 1 night stay in hospital. I always use dissolving stitches under the skin so there are no stitches to remove. I routinely use drains (tubes draining blood and fluid that are removed before discharge from hospital) unless the patient requests drain free surgery. You will have dressings and bandages on your arms when you wake up from surgery. These are changed at the end of the first week and I recommend you wear a pressure garment from week 2 to week 6 (these can be purchased online e.g. from Macom – use “Baker” for a 15% discount). Most of the wounds are healed by 2 to 3 weeks but it’s not uncommon for short stretches to take longer to heal. Sometimes the dissolving stitches are slow to dissolve and one or two may need to be removed. Vigorous exercise should be avoided for the first 6 weeks to prevent bleeding, infection, fluid collection and popping stitches. I recommend at least 1 week off work, partly because it will be sore to move your arms but also because you will be taking painkillers and won’t be able to drive. If your work is office based, you might be able to return to work at 2 weeks, but if your work is manual, you will need 2 weeks.
Most patients are delighted with the outcome of arm lift surgery. It’s important to have realistic expectations. The skin on the inside of the arms will be tightened but the skin on the outside of the arms is unchanged. The sagging skin is removed but the skin that is left behind does not become younger. 50 year old arms do not become 20 year old arms after surgery. You will have to maintain a healthy weight to prevent reaccumulation of fat and excess skin and exercise to maintain tone in the muscles.
The risks of arm lift surgery are bleeding, infection, delayed healing, fluid collection under the skin (seroma), loss or discolouration of patches of skin, long scars that may widen or thicken and may be unsightly, asymmetry of the volume, shape and scarring of the arms; the scars may cross the armpits and may cause contractures (leading to difficulty raising the arms); bumpiness of the skin, nerve injury causing numbness down the inside of the arm to the forearm or even chronic pain; residual skin laxity, lumps at the end of the scars, change with time or weight change and blood clots in the legs or chest.
Armlift procedure before and after at 2 months
This patient had lost weight and wanted slimmer arms she could wear comfortably in sleeveless dress.
Armlift procedure at 2 months
This patient had lost a lot of weight and was fed up with the loose skin of her upper arms as it was interfering with her ability to exercise.
Armlift procedure at 5 weeks
This patient had lost weight and found the loose skin was uncomfortable.