Why Do I Need an Arm Lift or What is a Brachioplasty?

By: Dr. J. Timothy Katzen


Are you bothered by sagging skin or loose arm skin? Are you self-conscious about the look of your upper arms? Do you tend to avoid wearing clothes with no sleeves? In such a case, you are not the only one. This problem affects many people and may be caused by aging, losing weight, sun damage, or genetics.

The good news is that arm lift surgery, often referred to as an arm reduction or brachioplasty, may provide a remedy. In this in-depth guide, we will cover all you need to know about arm lift surgery, including the various procedures, prices, who can benefit, how long the operation takes, and how long recuperation is. By the time you have finished reading this article, you will have a good idea of whether having arm lift surgery is your best course of action.

Who Needs Arm Lift Surgery?

Arm lift surgery is not only about improving a person’s appearance.
An arm lift can also enhance a person’s quality of life.

Candidates for arm lift surgery include the following:
Extreme weight loss: People in this category have reduced their body mass by a significant amount. Typically, these people have had gastric bypass procedures like a vertical gastric sleeve, Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, duodenal switch, or Lap-band. Other patients may lose extreme weight with glucagon-like peptide 1 analog injectables, like Ozempic and Mounjaro. Other patients lose their weight with extreme dieting and exercise.

1. Whatever the weight loss technique, massive weight loss can result in loose arm skin.

2. Older patients: As we get older, the suppleness of our skin decreases, which causes sagging and loose arm skin. This sag is because our skin has less elastin as we age. Less elastin means the skin does not bounce back as much as it did when you were younger.

Genetics: These patients have a genetic propensity to develop loose arm skin, even without major weight loss, sun damage, or significant aging.
Patients in this category might say they have their “grandmother’s arms” or “all the women in my family have these arms.”
Sun and radiation damage: Often, patients who have been chronic beachgoers, tennis players, or golf enthusiasts have excessively sun-damaged arm skin.

1. This sun-damaged skin is loose and leathery; no matter how much one exercises or tones, the upper arm skin will not snap back.

2. Excessive fat deposits: Patients with stubborn fat deposits on their upper arms that do not respond to diet or exercise may benefit from brachioplasty in combination with liposuction to achieve a more sculpted arm appearance.

3. Lipedema or lymphedema: These are two medical conditions that cause large fat upper arms. Lipedema and lymphedema may benefit from arm reduction surgery to remove arm fat. The surgical treatment of lipedema and lymphedema patients may be covered by insurance.

4. Post-pregnancy concerns: Pregnancy can lead to changes in the upper arms, including stretched arm skin and loss of arm muscle tone. Women unhappy with these post-pregnancy arm changes may consider arm lift surgery.

5. Body asymmetry due to prior body contouring procedures: Some patients may have had other body contouring procedures, such as abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) or a lower body lift. These procedures can lead to drastic asymmetries between the upper and lower body. People may consider arm surgery to correct upper and lower body asymmetries.

Psychological and emotional distress: Some patients experience emotional distress or have negative self-esteem due to the appearance of their upper arms.

1. These patients may opt for a brachioplasty to improve their confidence and well-being.

Unfortunately, further diet, exercise, muscle buildup, and weight loss will not tighten loose arm skin. Unfortunately, once the arm skin is stretched, it is difficult for the arm skin to shrink.

Can you relate to any of the following situations?

1. Does your grandchild play with your upper arms and ask, “Why are your arms so big?”

2. Do you have trouble finding clothing that fits your chest but not your arms?

3. Do you have to wear very loose shirts to fit over your arms?

4. Do you wear long-sleeved shirts in the middle of hot summers to cover your arms?

5. Do you avoid certain social events because you do not want to expose or cannot hide your arms?

6. Can you relate to the terms like “bingo arms” or “bat wings”?

What types of problems do people with excess arm skin face?
After weight loss, people with extremely large upper arms may encounter various physical, emotional, and practical challenges. Some problems they might face include the following:

1. Excess Skin: Rapid weight loss or a significant reduction in arm fat can lead to sagging upper arm skin.
This excess arm skin can cause discomfort and cosmetic concerns.

2. Mobility Issues: Large upper arms can limit a person’s range of motion and make everyday tasks, such as dressing, grooming, and reaching overhead, more complex.

3. Clothing Fit: Finding clothing that fits comfortably and looks flattering can be challenging when dealing with disproportionately large upper arms.

4. Self-Esteem and Body Image: The appearance of large upper arms may lead to body image issues and decreased self-esteem. People may feel self-conscious about their arms and avoid wearing certain clothing styles and social situations.

5. Hygiene Challenges: Cleaning and maintaining hygiene in excess arm skin folds can be cumbersome and may lead to skin irritation or fungal infections. Shaving and using underarm deodorants may exacerbate armpit infections and cause worsening of infections.

6. Physical Discomfort: The weight of excess arm skin can cause physical discomfort, including chafing, rashes, and even pain, especially during physical activities.

7. Exercise Limitations: Large upper arms may limit one’s ability to effectively perform specific exercises and strength training routines.

8. Emotional Distress: Dealing with the aftermath of extreme weight loss and the resulting excess skin can be emotionally challenging, leading to feelings of frustration, sadness, or disappointment.

Arm Lift Surgical Procedures and Methods
Surgical arm lifts may be performed using a variety of approaches, each of which is adapted to meet the individual patient’s requirements. There are five different arm lift or brachioplasty techniques.

VASER arm lift: This arm lift technique is a liposuction technique.
The VASER melts the upper arm fat, and heat shrinks the upper arm skin. This arm lift technique relies on ultrasonic energy to shrink the arms.

1. This technique should be reserved for patients with only mild excess arm skin. The benefit of the VASER arm lift is that there are only several tiny incisions. The disadvantage of the VASER is that no arm skin is removed.

2. Crescent or “mini” arm lift: During this arm reduction procedure, a crescent piece of upper arm skin and fat is removed from the upper inner arm. This procedure should be reserved for patients with only a mild amount of excess skin and fat in the upper one-third of the upper arm. Also, this procedure may be an option for patients who cannot tolerate longer arm scars. The advantage of the crescent arm lift is that the scar is hidden. The disadvantage of the crescent arm lift is that not much arm skin is removed. Arm liposuction can be added to this technique.

3. Modified incision arm lift: During this type of arm lift, an incision is made in the armpit. The incision is carried down the inseam of the upper arm and stops where the upper arm excess stops. This extension may be several inches; for other patients, this extension may be longer. Arm liposuction can be added to remove fat around the elbows.

4. Modified T-incision arm lift: During this type of brachioplasty, the crescent technique mentioned above is used. However, another small incision is carried down the inner arm. The length of this incision can vary. The resulting scar is in the shape of the letter “T.” Basically, the modified T-incision combines the crescent and the modified arm lift. The advantage of this technique is that more arm skin can be removed than the crescent. However, this technique does little for excess skin around the elbows. Like the crescent arm lift, arm liposuction can be added to this procedure.

Partial longitudinal arm lift: This is also called the traditional arm lift. This procedure is the most common form of arm lift. During the partial arm reduction, arm liposuction is performed.

1. Then, an incision is made from the armpit to the elbow. A large ellipse of excess arm skin and fat is removed. The arm skin is lifted, tightened, and permanently removed. The incision is closed in layers with absorbable sutures. Drains are not used. The advantage of the partial longitudinal arm lift is that excess arm skin and fat are removed, and the upper arm is tightened. The main disadvantage of this technique is the scar. However, the arm scar is concealed in the inner arm and can be minimized with lasering.

2. Complete or full longitudinal arm lift: This is the rarest of upper arm lifts. During this type of arm lift, arm and forearm liposuction is performed. Then, an incision is made from the armpit to the elbow and continues to the wrist. The main advantage of this arm lift is the permanent removal of excess skin and fat from the arms to the wrists. The main disadvantage of this technique is the scar.

Costs Involved in Having Arm Lift Surgery
Arm lift surgery may have a very different price tag based on several variables, including the following:

1. Location: Because of geographical position, prices in big urban centers tend to be higher. Bigger city plastic surgery practices have higher overhead due to rent, staff, and malpractice fees. These overhead costs are passed onto the patient.

2. Experience and reputation of your chosen plastic surgeon: Highly experienced and well-known plastic surgeons may demand higher service fees. Experience can also mean fewer chances of wound breakdowns and other complications.

Facility fees: These fees are the costs associated with the operating room.

1. Plastic surgeons can perform arm lifts in various settings, including their office, outpatient surgery center, or hospital. Each of these facilities has a different fee structure.

2. Anesthesia costs: These fees include the kind of anesthesia administered and the fees charged by the anesthesiologist.

3. Additional treatments: The total price will increase if you decide to have liposuction or other available supplemental procedures.

4. Pre-operative work-up: Before any surgery is scheduled, routine blood work, EKG, and chest X-ray are required. Sometimes, these studies are included in the fee estimate.

Arm Lift Procedure Length
The time needed to complete arm lift surgery is contingent upon several variables. Variables include the type of arm lift you require as well as the intricacy of the operation. Also, the presence or absence of supplementary procedures, such as arm liposuction, can add surgical time and increase the cost. On average, an arm lift procedure duration ranges from two to four hours.

Time Required for Recovery After Arm Lift Surgery
An essential part of the procedure is recuperating after an arm lift surgery. During the recovery period, you might experience the following:

Immediately after your arm lift: After the surgery, your arms will be wrapped with ACE bandages or compression garments to reduce swelling and support the newly shaped arms.

The first week after your arm lift: The first week of rehabilitation is often the most difficult. Keep your arms elevated as much as possible to lessen the throbbing and swelling in your arms. Prescription pain medication will help control any discomfort. Refraining from strenuous activities and carrying heavy objects during this time would be best.

Second and Third Week after your arm lift: During this time, most patients can return to mild activities, such as office work; nevertheless, rigorous workouts and heavy lifting should still be avoided. The bruising and swelling should decrease during this time.

Fourth to Sixth Week after your arm lift: You should be able to resume most of your usual activities, including some modest forms of exercise. Avoid engaging in activities that might place an excessive amount of pressure on your arms, and be sure to follow the instructions given to you by your plastic surgeon.

Usually, it takes anything between three and six months to make a full recovery. The arm lift scars will continue to diminish in appearance over time. It is crucial to shield your scars from the sun. Also, use scar-reduction lotions or silicone sheeting as directed by your plastic surgeon.

People who struggle with lax or sagging arm skin could find that arm lift surgery is a technique that improves their lives. An arm lift can enhance a person’s appearance and boost their self-confidence and overall quality of life. By now, you should be able to decide whether arm lift surgery is the best option for you. Begin the path toward more youthful and toned arms by scheduling a consultation with a plastic surgeon experienced in arm lift surgery. During your consultation about your arm lift, discuss your unique requirements and objectives. Remember that a consultation is all that stands between you and skinny arms.
Since a brachioplasty or arm lift surgery is complex, please seek a qualified plastic surgeon with significant experience performing these types of arm lifts. Do your research. Make sure your chosen plastic surgeon has performed at least 800 arm lifts.
Make sure they have the before and after pictures to prove it. Carefully examine their before and after pictures and check their reviews on social media platforms.
If you have any questions regarding the arm lift, arm reduction, or brachioplasty, please get in touch with Dr. Katzen’s office at (310) 859-7770. Dr. Katzen can physically consult with you in one of his many offices in Beverly Hills, CA, Las Vegas, NV, and Dubai. Alternatively, virtual consultations can be scheduled via FaceTime, Skype, WhatsApp, or Zoom. CALL DR. KATZEN RIGHT NOW if you want smaller arms.

* All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.