What is brachioplasty?
A brachioplasty is a surgery that reshapes the back part and the under surface of
your upper arm, from your shoulder to your elbow. It’s also called an arm lift. It
gets rid of extra skin and tissue. It makes your upper arm look smoother and smaller.
When you gain a lot of weight, your skin slowly stretches over time. If you lose a
lot of weight, as you get older your skin may not have enough elasticity to spring
back into place. This can lead to extra skin folds and sagging of tissue. These are
likely to be under your arm and chin, and on your upper thighs and lower stomach.
These changes may happen after you have lost a lot of weight from weight-loss surgery.
Brachioplasty is a type of body-contouring surgery. This type of surgery is often
done after weight-loss surgery. Many people who have had weight-loss surgery are interested
in reshaping surgeries. Surgeons often do brachioplasty at the same time as another
surgery. These may include body contouring around the midsection, under the chin,
or along the inner thighs.
During this surgery, a plastic, cosmetic, or aesthetic surgeon takes out areas of
extra tissue from under your upper arm. Your surgeon will make a cut on the inside
or back of your arm. They will remove extra folds of skin and fat. Your surgeon will
then sew the tissue that is left back together. This creates a smoother contour. This
may also improve muscle tone in your upper arm. Sometimes the surgeon also removes
extra tissue on the side of the chest.
You will likely be asleep under general anesthesia during this surgery.
Why might I need a brachioplasty?
This surgery may be for you if you recently lost a lot of weight. It’s often done
after weight-loss surgery. You may not be happy with how you look after weight-loss
surgery if you have extra folds of tissue under your arm. You may also notice excess
skin as you age.
These extra skin folds may cause the following problems:
What are the risks of brachioplasty?
In general, brachioplasty is a safe procedure. But all surgeries come with risks.
Your risks depend on your age, the amount of weight you lost, and other health issues
you have. They also depend on your surgeon’s approach to surgery. Talk to your doctor
about the risks that apply to you.
Possible risks can include:
Trouble with wound healing.
Damage to lymphatic tissue. This may cause swelling in your arm.
Damage to nearby nerves. This can cause short-term (temporary) or long-term (permanent)
Complications from anesthesia
Pain that doesn’t go away
Blood clots such as in the lung (pulmonary embolism.)
Skin looseness that comes back again and again
You may also not get the results that you want from the surgery. You may need to have
another surgery to further contour the area of your upper arm.
You will also have a large, visible scar on your arm from the surgery.
How do I get ready for a brachioplasty?
First, you should ask your healthcare provider if this surgery is right for you. If
you have certain health issues, the risks of the surgery may outweigh the benefits.
Your surgeon will also want to make sure that you have a realistic idea of the results
of surgery. You will also need to commit to a healthy lifestyle and maintain a stable
weight and stay generally fit.
Most health insurance plans won’t cover body-contouring surgery. They may cover it
if you have a complication, such as an infection around a skinfold. These surgeries
can be very expensive. Take a look at your finances. Talk with your plastic surgeon
to find out how much it will cost you.
Don't have this surgery until you have reached a stable weight. If you lose weight
after your surgery, you may get new areas where the skin can sag. If you gain a lot
of weight after your brachioplasty, it can harm your weakened skin. This can cause
stretch marks and wide scars.
If you smoke, you should quit smoking at least several weeks before your surgery.
Smoking greatly increases the risk for complications. Also ask your surgeon if you
should stop taking any medicines before surgery. Ask about over-the-counter medicines,
such as aspirin and blood thinners. Follow your surgeon's instructions about what
to do before the surgery. For example, you may not be allowed to eat or drink anything
after midnight before the day of your surgery. Also let your surgeon know about any
recent health issues you’ve had, such as a fever.
Your surgeon may do testing before your surgery. These may include:
Electrocardiogram, to look at your heart rhythm
Pulmonary function tests, to check your lung function
Basic blood tests, to check for infection, anemia, and kidney function
Your surgeon may give you more instructions on how to prepare for your surgery.
What happens during a brachioplasty?
Your surgeon can explain the details of your surgery. Your surgeon and a team of nurses
will do your surgery. In general, you can expect the following:
In most cases, you will get general anesthesia. This is to help you sleep through
the operation. You won’t feel anything. Or you may get local anesthesia and a medicine
that will keep you relaxed but awake.
The anesthesiologist will watch your heart rate, blood pressure, and other vital signs
during the surgery.
You may get antibiotics during and after the procedure. This is to help prevent infection.
The surgeon makes a cut (incision) along the back of your arm or on the inside of
your arm. It may go from your underarm to your elbow. Or the incision may go partly
down your chest.
The surgeon takes out extra skin and fat in this area and tightens and reshapes the
underlying tissue. They may place a drain in the area to let extra blood or fluid
drain. The incision is then closed.
The surgeon then reconnects the skin. This creates a smooth contour.
If planned, the surgeon will do another type of body-contouring surgery. You may have
lipoosuction of your arm as part of your brachioplasty.
Dressings will be placed on your incisions.
What happens after a brachioplasty?
When you wake up, you may have a small, thin tube underneath your skin to drain fluid
from the wound and the incision will be covered with dressings or bandages. Elastic
bandages or a compression garment on your arm may be used to help keep the swelling
down. You may also have some pain afterward. You can ask for pain medicine. You should
be able to eat a normal diet as soon as you are ready for it.
You may need to stay overnight in the hospital. Some people can go home the same day
as surgery. In that case, make sure someone can drive you home. You should also plan
to have help after the surgery. It won’t be safe for you to drive for several days.
Your surgeon will tell you how to care for your incisions. It’s normal to have a little
fluid drain from the incision site. Tell your surgeon if you have severe draining,
redness, or a fever. Also tell your surgeon right away if you have severe symptoms.
These include sudden shortness of breath or chest pain.
Your surgeon will tell you how much you can move after surgery. You should not put
too much pressure on your incisions as they heal. Following your surgeon’s orders
carefully will improve your chances of a smooth recovery.
You will see the results of your brachioplasty right away. They will last as long
as you keep a stable weight. If you are not happy with the results of your surgery,
talk with your surgeon. Some people need another surgery for best results.
Before you agree to the test or the procedure make sure you know:
The name of the test or procedure
The reason you are having the test or procedure
What results to expect and what they mean
The risks and benefits of the test or procedure
What the possible side effects or complications are
When and where you are to have the test or procedure
Who will do the test or procedure and what that person’s qualifications are
What would happen if you did not have the test or procedure
Any alternative tests or procedures to think about
When and how will you get the results
Who to call after the test or procedure if you have questions or problems
How much will you have to pay for the test or procedure