Do you live with excess skin and fat on your upper arms? Although a sign of ageing, many patients who have lost a significant amount of weight often suffer from flabby arms as well. In some instances, that pocket of fat and sagging skin can give a patient’s arms a “wing like” appearance. This can leave many patients feeling insecure, embarrassed and, in some cases, even less sociable.
Unfortunately, despite eating healthy and exercising diligently, for a lot of weight loss patients the problem doesn’t usually go away naturally. The good news, however, is that for individuals who desire tighter, firmer arms, cosmetic surgery offers an effective solution. Arm lift surgery, otherwise known as brachioplasty, is a procedure that reshapes the upper arms by reducing excess skin, and in some cases fat, resulting in smoother skin and better-proportioned contours of the upper arms.
Download your post weight loss GP referral form
Who is a brachioplasty for?
The decision to have brachioplasty–no matter the type–is a very personal one, and it may not be right for everyone. Prior to making a decision to have the surgery, Dr Beldholm thoroughly listens to his patient’s concerns, carefully assesses their problem area, reviews their overall health and plans the treatment that is best suited for them. The ideal candidates for this surgery are:
- Those who do not smoke
- Those who are physically healthy and don’t suffer from medical conditions that could hinder healing or increase the risk of complications (Ex: heart problems, diabetes, cancer, etc.)
- Those whose weight is stable
- Those with excess soft tissue along the upper arm region
- Those who have realistic expectations
How is Dr Beldholm’s arm lift different?
The arm lift surgery that Dr Beldholm performs on patients is a bit different from traditional brachioplasty–but in a good way. The traditional technique involves cutting the tissues down to the triceps muscle and then creating two so-called flaps, where the skin and fat is then resected. Drains are then used to prevent seromas and the drains usually stay in for around two weeks. Dr Beldholm’s technique has several advantages such as:
- Lower seroma rate (fluid collection in the wound)
- NO drains needed
- Lower risk of nerve damage
- Sculpting the arm with VASER liposculpture
Dr Beldholm has developed a refined liposuction-based method for arms lifts that improves many of the limitations of the more standard or traditional techniques. To effectively reshape and tighten the arms, Dr Beldholm combines brachioplasty with VASER liposculpture to give his patients the best results possible.
How is a brachioplasty done?
When tightening the arms, Dr Beldholm first performs VASER lipo on patients’ arms to melt the fat and stimulate skin contraction. This will aid in giving patients sculpted upper arms and defined muscles. The loose skin that remains is then removed superficially. This is key to the refined result and quick recovery.
When making the incision, the scar is made as long as is needed. If the scar, which ultimately fades over times, is made smaller than necessary, then there will be excess skin and fat. Often referred to as “dog ears,” this will make the arm look lumpy. Depending on the patient’s preference, the scar can be strategically placed in a number of locations.
As there is no deep dissection performed, there is no need for drains. Using this technique also leads to less bruising and swelling and a faster recovery. Because absorbable sutures are used, there is no need for anything to be removed.
What are the benefits of an arm lift?
A patient’s results often has a lot to do with the surgeon’s experience. Dr Beldholm has been performing arm lift surgery on his parents for more than a decade. Overall, his patients experience the following results from surgery:
- The removal of loose skin in the upper underarm area
- The restoration of firmness, balance, and symmetry to the arms
- A reduction in localised pockets of fat in the upper arm region
- Increased comfort in the upper arm area when a patient walks or exercise
- Results that last a long time (as long as a patient’s weight remains stable)
- Arms that appear more contoured, youthful and toned
What is the recovery like from an arm lift?
Recovery times from full arm lift surgery will vary from individual to individual, but patients should be able to return home on the same day as their operation, after a post-op check by Dr Beldholm. Following surgery, patients are likely to experience some arm pain. However, it can be easily controlled with pain medication prescribed by Dr Beldholm.
To minimise swelling and fluid build up, patients must wear compression garments for approximately 6-8 weeks. By limiting the two, a patient will heal faster, and the arm skin will stick to the underlying muscles. Most patients in non-manual jobs can generally return to work after two weeks. Heavy lifting and vigorous upper body exercise should be avoided for at least 4-6 weeks.
Potential complications from a brachioplasty
Brachioplasty is typically a safe operation performed as a day-stay procedure. However, as with all surgery, there is the potential for complications. Most complications tend to be minor, and in Dr Beldholm’s experience, if there are issues, most stem from the incision and the healing of the wound.
The procedure will result in scar formation, as with all surgery. With a brachioplasty, the scar is on the inner aspect of the arm, and depending on how much skin is removed, it can extend through the axilla and onto the lateral chest wall, as well as towards the forearm. Scarring is generally pink, but fades to become white, soft and supple in the weeks or months after the operation. Most patients find that the wound heals quickly and that the appearance is ultimately acceptable to them. However, abnormal scarring occasionally occurs within the skin and deeper tissues, and these may be unattractive and of different colour to the surrounding skin.
Postoperative pain will occur in varying degrees, from quite severe to moderate to mild on the first day. It gradually improves over the next few days and is usually well tolerated by patients if they take the painkillers prescribed. Increasing pain unresponsive to pain-killers should be brought to the attention of the surgeon as this may be an indication that complications are developing. Intermittent mild discomfort or intermittent sharp pains after the first few weeks after surgery is also common, as the swelling resolves and the nerves recover. Chronic pain, ranging from mild aching pain to sharp nerve pain can persist for more than one year, but is very rare. Specific complications relating to arm lift surgery may include:
- Seroma or excessive fluid build-up between the skin and underlying tissue
- Nerve injuries, including the motor nerves (such as the ulnar nerve) that move the muscles
- Initial loss of skin sensation in the arm – though usually temporary, in rare cases it can be permanent
- Visible skin contour irregularities, wrinkles, depressions, and skin pleating, where there is excessive redundant skin
- Swelling of the forearms and hands, and skin discoloration
- A sensation of tightness in the arm, which usually subsides over time
- Infections – either superficial or deep. The infection rate for arm lift surgery is about 1% and the problem is usually easily corrected with antibiotics
- Bleeding after surgery – requiring emergency treatment to drain accumulated blood or a blood transfusion