Also known as brachioplasty
An upper arm lift, or brachioplasty, reshapes the upper arm to tighten loose skin and remove fat that often creates a “bat wing” appearance under the arm. Removing the excess skin caused by weight loss or natural aging can tighten loose skin that extends from the underarm area to the elbow; liposuction is sometimes used in combination to achieve the best results. Every year, thousands of people undergo successful upper-arm-lift surgery and are pleased with the results.
These are the top three pros and cons to weigh when considering an upper arm lift. If you want to focus on what is unique to you, please consult with your aesthetic plastic surgeon.
Are you a good candidate for an upper arm lift?
After losing a significant amount of weight and embarking on a program of vigorous exercise, you may find that you still have loose, hanging underarm skin that resembles bat wings. Although you can improve your upper-arm appearance with exercise, this redundant underarm skin remains a problem that does not improve with exercise. The following are some common reasons why you may want to consider an upper arm lift:
If you are in good general health, have a positive attitude and realistic expectations, you are most likely a good candidate for this procedure.
Generally, here is what to expect:
The goal of your aesthetic plastic surgeon and the entire staff is to help you achieve the best result and make your surgical experience as easy and comfortable as possible.
Your options will be dictated by your skin quality and the extent of excess underarm fat and skin. Your surgeon will help you make the right choice based on your anatomy and preferences.
Liposuction: Arm liposuction is an option for you if your skin has enough elasticity to shrink around the remaining tissues after your fat is removed. If your skin has poor elasticity, tissue sagging will be even more pronounced after fat is removed. Liposuction may also be used as an adjunct for fat removal in a standard brachioplasty procedure.
Limited-incision brachioplasty: If excess hanging skin is located close to the armpit, your surgeon may be able to pull up and tuck this excess skin into the armpit. This works best if you have loose, crepe-like skin in the lower inner arm area near the armpit and do not have too much excess fatty tissue.
Standard brachioplasty: If your excess skin extends like a bat wing from the armpit to the elbow, the only option is complete removal of the arm flab in a standard brachioplasty.
Extended brachioplasty: An extended arm lift is similar to a standard brachioplasty, except that the incision is extended along the arm down to the body to include loose skin and fatty tissue that might be just under the arm area along the side of the chest wall. Loose skin in that area is common in patients who have had massive weight loss.
Upper arm lift scars vary depending on the amount of excess tissue you have and the elasticity of your skin. Even patients who undergo a standard brachioplasty, which results in larger scars, are usually quite satisfied with the results.
The arm lift incision can extend from the elbow to the arm pit and sometimes to the side of the chest.
It's important to choose your surgeon based on:
Members of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery are experienced and qualified to perform your aesthetic procedure. Learn how to select a surgeon.
After finding a board-certified plastic surgeon in your area who is experienced in performing upper arm lift surgery, you will need to make an office appointment to set up your consultation. Generally, because of the in-depth nature of the consultation, there is a cost associated with the initial visit.
During your initial consultation, you will have the opportunity to discuss your cosmetic goals. Your surgeon will evaluate you as a candidate for upper-arm-lift surgery and clarify what an upper arm lift can do for you. Understanding your goals and medical condition, both alternative and additional treatments may be considered (see related procedures).
You should come to the consultation prepared to discuss your complete medical history and answer the following questions:
Your surgeon may also:
Based on your goals, physical characteristics and the surgeon’s years of training and experience, your surgeon will share recommendations and information with you, including:
For a general list of questions to ask your surgeon about his or her background, to find out about plastic surgery safety and to plan your procedure, visit the Planning Toolkit.
We developed these questions to help you:
It is important for you to take an active role in your surgery, so please use this list of questions as a starting point for your initial consultation:
How do I prepare for an upper arm lift?
Your surgeon will provide thorough preoperative instructions, answer any questions you may have, take a detailed medical history and perform a physical exam to determine your fitness for surgery.
In advance of your procedure, your surgeon may ask you to:
Upper-arm-lift surgery is usually performed on an outpatient bases. Be sure to arrange for someone to drive you home after surgery and stay with you for at least the first night following surgery.
For the easiest recovery period, prepare carefully:
What you can expect on the day of upper-arm-lift surgery
Your upper-arm-lift surgery may be performed in an accredited hospital, free-standing ambulatory facility or office-based surgical suite. Most upper arm lift procedures take at least one to three hours to complete but may take longer.
When you wake up, you may find the following:
Before leaving for home on the day of surgery, you (or someone looking after you) should feel comfortable emptying and resetting your drains.
You may go home on the day of surgery or spend a night in the hospital or an aftercare center with a nurse, unless you and your surgeon have decided on other postoperative recovery options. Under no circumstances will you be permitted to go home alone or stay home without another adult present for the first 24 to 48 hours. Follow your doctor’s recommendation in relation to this decision.
Your surgeon will discuss how long it will be before you can return to your normal level of activity and work. After surgery, you and your caregiver will receive detailed instructions about your postsurgical care, including information about:
See options for short-term recovery locations in Aftercare and Recovery (Planning Toolkit).
Immediately after your upper arm lift
You may be placed in a compression garment or wrap immediately following surgery. Wear this exactly as directed. Remove it only as directed for cleansing incisions or showering. You must have a responsible adult take you home and remain with you continuously for at least 24 hours after surgery. Although rare, emergencies do occur. You should have someone help you to the bathroom the first few times in case you experience dizziness or lightheadedness.
Recovery time frame following an upper arm lift
You will need a few weeks to recover and heal from an arm lift procedure. It will be at least one or two weeks before you can return to work and about ten days before you can drive.
Follow your plastic surgeon’s postoperative instructions. Recovery instructions that you can expect include the following:
Walking: Although your arms will be sore for several days, you should be up and walking the day after surgery, which is the best way to reduce the chances of blood clotting in the legs. You should be able to resume some of your normal daily activities within several days after surgery.
Sleeping: During the first two weeks following your upper arm lift, attempt to sleep with your arms elevated on two or three pillows. This ensures drainage of fluids from your upper extremities, reducing inflammation and tension on your incision lines.
Showering: Your surgeon may remove your dressings and wraps on your first postoperative visit, probably within five days of your surgery. You can then take a shower. After showering, simply pat your incisions dry and begin wearing your arm compression garment.
Swelling: Arm swelling may take three to five weeks to subside. Keeping your arms elevated, according to your surgeon’s instructions, will shorten this period.
Driving: If you are taking pain medication, it is not safe to drive a car within 24 hours, since your reflexes and alertness may be altered.
Mild Exercise: Walking, stretching and moving your arms and legs while sitting will reduce swelling and prevent clotting. If you should feel pain or pulling in the incision area, stop the activity.
Scarring: Everyone’s body is different and many factors contribute to scar healing. Your scars will be firm and pink for about six weeks. Expect that it will be at least nine to 12 months before your arm lift scars lighten in color and become as flat as the rest of your skin.
As long as your weight does not fluctuate, you should expect the results of your upper arm lift to last for many years. Your body will continue to age, including your skin. This may lead to loose skin in the future. If you gain considerable weight after the surgery and then lose the weight, loose skin will return. In either scenario, subsequent arm laxity will be far less significant than before your surgery.
Maintain a relationship with your aesthetic plastic surgeon
For safety, as well as the most beautiful and healthy outcome, it’s important to return to your plastic surgeon’s office for follow-up evaluation at prescribed times and whenever you notice any changes in your arms. Do not hesitate to contact your surgeon when you have any questions or concerns.
The cost of an upper arm lift varies from doctor to doctor, from one geographic area to another and with the technique that is performed. Because an upper arm lift is elective surgery, insurance usually does not cover these costs; however, if your brachioplasty is one of several plastic surgeries following bariatric surgery and massive weight loss, there is a small chance that it may be covered. Many surgeons offer patient financing plans to make the procedure more affordable.
See the national average for physician fees per procedure.
These numbers only reflect the physician/surgeon fees last year and do not include fees for the surgical facility, anesthesia, medical tests, prescriptions, surgical garments or other miscellaneous costs related to surgery.
Choose your surgeon based on quality, training and experience—not cost.
See why ASAPS members are widely recognized for upholding the highest standards in the area of aesthetic plastic surgery by viewing their basic credentials, training and certifications.
Fortunately, significant complications from upper-arm-lift surgery are infrequent. This surgery remains the gold standard for arm rejuvenation and is usually performed without any major problems.
All surgical procedures have some degree of risk. Some of the potential complications of all surgeries are:
You can help minimize certain risks by following the advice and instructions of your board-certified plastic surgeon, both before and after your upper-arm-lift surgery.