A formal brachioplasty is best suited for patients that have extra sagging skin and fat in the upper inner arm. The best candidates have extra skin following weight loss, leaving minimal fat to be addressed. The length and direction of the scar varies depending on how much skin is hanging. If there is extra skin from armpit to elbow, the scar will be that length. If there is just some extra skin towards the armpit area, the scar may be very short or even concealed in the armpit. We can avoid scars completely in patients who have extra fat only and have elastic skin that will tighten after removing just the fat by offering arm liposuction in lieu of formal brachioplasty.

Types of procedures

  • Arm liposuction: This is for younger patients with elastic skin who don’t have excess hanging skin. Liposuction can be done under local or general anesthetic, depending on the patient’s wishes and the extent of the planned procedure.
  • Short scar brachioplasty: This approach is best for patients with a small amount of extra skin in the upper arm who do not want a long scar along the upper inner arm. Your surgeon will discuss tradeoffs between the length of the scar in the amount of tissue that can be removed prior to surgery.
  • Full brachioplasty: This involves a scar extending from the armpit towards the elbow. This is the most effective way to improve contour. Planned correctly, the scar can be concealed so it is not viewed from the front or the back. It is frequently combined with liposuction of the arm to further refine outcomes.

Procedure details

  • You and your surgeon will work to choose the procedure that best suits your needs
  • Areas are marked prior to surgery with a patient standing and with the arms out to plan the position of the scars and address additional areas that may need liposuction
  • An arm lift with a short or long scar is done under general anesthetic, as an outpatient procedure. If only mild liposuction is performed, the procedure is done under local anesthetic
  • Appropriate amounts of skin and fat are removed and skin is closed with dissolvable stitches
  • If a large amount of tissue was removed, a drain is placed. The drain is removed approximately one week after surgery
  • An ACE bandage or a compression garment is used and encouraged for at least two months to reduce swelling and improve results

Risks & Benefits

While rare, risks include bleeding and infection. Nerves and blood vessels that travel along the areas that are operated risk injury during surgery. Because the surgery is done only on the skin and the fat, the major nerves and blood vessels are protected from any damage, but temporary numbness or weakness may occur. Thick or tight scarring can occur after surgery depending on how a patient heals. Problematic scars can usually be addressed at a later date.

Most patients tolerate these procedures very well, and are happy to replace unsightly and uncomfortable sagging skin with much nicer contour, even though scars may be present. Scars tend to heal well and are concealed in most outfits.

Frequently Asked Questions

How will I know if I’m an appropriate candidate for a short scar brachioplasty?

Your surgeon will be able to tell if you are a good candidate for this option by pinching the skin in the upper arm. Since skin is not removed from further down in the arm, this technique may not provide the best possible contour.

How will I know if I am an appropriate candidate for just liposuction of the arms?
If you do not have significant extra skin, you may be an appropriate candidate for liposuction only. However, if you have a large amount of liposuction, you may have sagging skin after the liposuction. We may be able to use other skin tightening modalities to help avoid or address this issue.