An arm lift, also known as brachioplasty, reduces excess skin and fat from the underarm area between the armpit and the elbow. It is a surgical procedure that can be performed on either women or men, although most people having arm lifts are women over the age of 40.

Fast Facts

  • An arm lift reduces excess skin and fat from the upper underarm area.
  • You should not have this procedure if your weight is unstable.
  • The procedure takes between 2 and 3 hours.
  • You will have a scar on the inside of your arm, which will fade over time.
  • Swelling and bruising will diminish about 10 days following surgery.
  • You may need to wear a compression garment following surgery.

Reasons for choosing to have an arm lift

As we age our skin becomes thinner and less elastic, our muscles lose bulk and tone and the fatty tissue under the surface of the skin loses its volume. Along with these natural results of ageing, often weight gain and weight loss can often mean drooping or excess skin.

Sometimes referred to as ‘bat wings’, the sagging area under the upper arm can cause women to feel self conscious in clothes without sleeves. An arm lift is an ideal procedure if this is how you feel. Do not, however, have this procedure if your weight is unstable or if you are overweight. You should also not have this procedure if you have an ongoing infection of the sweat glands in the armpits. Unless you gain a significant amount of weight (10 kilograms or more), the results of an arm lift usually lasts a long time.

Things to consider once you’ve decided to have an arm lift

Surgeons will not undertake any procedure on patients who are seriously overweight, but in some cases liposuction can be used in conjunction with an arm lift to remove both excess fat and skin.

There will be a scar on the inside of your upper arm. It will heal and fade over time and become less visible.

It is important to discuss your expectations and the desired outcome with your surgeon before having this procedure.

What is an arm lift and what to expect

An arm lift operation will take 2–3 hours and is performed in a hospital or clinic under general anaesthesia. An incision is made from the elbow to the armpit, allowing your doctor to remove excess skin and small fat deposits. The skin is then redraped and stitched together. The size and shape of your arms will change immediately and will continue to change after the swelling has diminished, usually after about 10–14 days. Your scars may take a year to fully fade, so make sure to follow your surgeon’s instructions on scar healing treatments.

How long is recovery from arm lift surgery?

You should feel fine the day following your surgery as a result of the effects of anaesthesia, which will still be in your system. Your arms will be a little painful for 2–3 days following. Most women return to normal activities such as exercise in 3–4 weeks after the procedure.

How long does arm lift surgery take?

Most arm lifts are performed on an outpatient basis, which means that you will probably go home a couple of hours after you’ve recovered from the effects of anaesthesia. The surgery itself is around 1-2 hours.

Before and after surgery

There are things you can do leading up to any kind of surgery to improve the experience.

This is something specific to the arm lift procedure that you can do:

  • Make sure you have things like clean clothes within easy reach and below chest level, so you don’t have to move your arms a lot.

There are also a number of things that you can do following any surgery.

Specific things to do after arm lift surgery:

  • Your arms may be wrapped in dressings and bandages as well as a compression garment used to keep the swelling and bruising down. Keep these dressings dry.

Possible risks and complications

As with any surgical procedures, there are risks involved in having an arm lift, and you should be fully aware of these before you consider surgery.

The best way to reduce risk is to find a fully qualified surgeon with formal training in arm surgery who has performed the procedure many times.

Make sure you familiarise yourself with the list of complications that could arise as a result of any surgery.

A specific complication that may occur after arm lift surgery:

  • Contour irregularities such as fat bulges or the wrinkling of skin can occur if too much or not enough fat and skin have been removed.

Rough costs involved

Surgeon, anaesthetist and hospital costs will vary, however a rough indication on how much this procedure usually costs is somewhere between $5000 and $7,000 (AUD).

You should expect the costs to be higher if you are having combined procedures at the same time.

This information is correct as of 2019.

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