A brachioplasty, commonly referred to as an arm-lift, is a surgical procedure that removes the excess skin and fat from under the arms. A sagging underarm is most often the result of sudden and significant weight loss – while most of the fat is gone, the shape of the arm stays the same because the skin has lost its elasticity, and where once was fat, you’re left with unsupported, sagging skin.
On the other hand, skin can also get saggy simply due to aging. While you can tone your muscles with exercise, this excess skin which sags from the elbow to the shoulder on the bottom areas of your arms is sadly removable only through a surgical procedure. Even though it’s a hard thing to face, some things just aren’t fixable with diet and exercise, and we need a bit of extra help from modern medicine! If you’re interested in undergoing this procedure, it’s important to keep yourself informed and know what to expect.
Here are seven interesting facts about brachioplasty that every potential patient should know.
How An Arm-Lift Works
The skin which is being removed is the skin that sags under the upper arm area – loosely stretching from the elbow to your armpits. The surgeon will mark your arm, drawing a line in the area which will later be the incision itself. The length of the incision varies from person-to-person, depending on the amount of skin which has to be removed, as well as its positioning.
Generally, the incisions are placed on the inside of the arms. The surgeon will proceed to tighten and reshape the underlying tissues with internal sutures. The excess skin is used to drape over the new contours of the arm, pulling the skin back over the tissue. This way the arm is given a new shape. The unwanted skin is then removed, and the wound is closed up with stitches.
You'll Be Put Under General Anesthesia
Unless there's certain preexisting factors, such as your medical history and your overall health, you'll be put under general anesthesia for the duration of the procedure. Usually achieved with a combination of intravenous drugs and inhaled anesthetics, while under general anesthesia you're not only unconscious, but the brain is put in a suspended state where it doesn’t respond to stimulation which it would normally register as pain or reflex.
You'll be given exact instructions from your surgeon on how to prepare for the surgery, and it’s very important to follow them especially because of the general anesthesia. You'll be asked not to eat or drink for at least 12 hours before the surgery.
An Arm-Lift Might Involve Liposuction
Depending on the amount of excess skin which is to be removed and how invasive the surgery is, the procedure might be combined with another common cosmetic operation – liposuction. Liposuction is a non-invasive procedure during which fat deposits are sucked out from in between the skin and the muscle with the use of either a syringe or suction pump.
Liposuction is done during the arm-lift, meaning within the same surgery, if the surgeon decides that the extra pockets of fat will hinder the results of the procedure or cause difficulties in the healing process.
Scarring and Stitches Will Be a Factor
The incisions made during the procedure will be closed with stitches. There are two types: dissolvable stitches, which dissolve on their own over time; and stitches which need to be removed by your doctor. It's largely up to your doctor which ones will be used, and it’s best to have a discussion beforehand so that you understand what option your surgeon is going for and why.
The stitches stay in the incision for roughly up to a week to 10 days, and are then to be removed by a nurse or the operating doctor. Stitches are there to keep the incision closed and make sure it heals and closes properly.
The procedure will, as all surgical procedures do, inevitably leave scars. This is why it’s lucky the incisions are placed on the bottom side of the arm. This space isn't only practical positioning for the surgeon to operate on, but it makes the scarring less eye-catching. Everyone undergoing surgery is always curious about the scarring, but there are, unfortunately, no definitive answers when it comes to this. There will be scars, but how persistent they will be depends solely on your skin.
People scar differently, and your best tell is your prior personal experience. Sensitive skin types have more stubborn scars and increased redness, while others can heal quite quickly. These scars will be no different than the rest of them, and will behave exactly the way all the other scars you’ve had in life behaved. There are, of course, options, and ways you can help your skin in the fight against the scars. Consult your doctor about the proper skin care and the best lotions for your skin type.
While lotions can’t erase the scars, they can speed up the healing process and alleviate the pain and itching that comes with the scars. Another thing you should be mindful of is avoiding the sun, because exposure to direct sunlight causes the discoloration of scars, making them more visible.
The Risks of an Arm-Lift
Brachioplasty is generally a minimally invasive and safe procedure. Every surgery carries with it a minimal amount of risk. A heart condition and regular prescription medication intake can cause complications, which is why it’s important to establish an open relationship with your doctor and make sure they are familiar with your medical history and your habits.
There is a risk of bleeding, infection, and seroma when it comes to any wound, which is why treating the wound properly and generally being responsible about your health is important. There's always a chance, especially when the amount of the sagging skin is quite large, that the surgery won’t be a success if you don’t get the desired effect. This can be corrected by undergoing the procedure again, this time for correctional purposes.
How To Prepare For Brachioplasty
The preparation for this procedure is much like for any other. You need to establish a trusting relationship with your surgeon and communicate the desired results. In order for your doctor to be able to treat you in the most effective way possible, you have to share your medical history and be open about your lifestyle and habits. This way the doctor can decide on the best ways to act in your individual case.
Some things may seem minor to you, but on the chemical level, can be very important and seriously affect the results of your surgery. This is why you must be completely honest about any medication that you’re taking, and about your drinking and smoking habits. Generally, every doctor will tell you to quit smoking two months before any surgery, as smoking seriously hinders the wound healing process.
The Arm-Lift Recovery Process
After the surgery, you'll be wearing a compression garment. The purpose of a compression garment is to prevent swelling and seromas. Seromas are pockets of fluid that build up in the incisions, and the yellowish liquid they store can start leaking out of the incision after the surgery. If seromas do form, you'll be given a drainage tube.
This is a small tube which is inserted into the incision on one end and ends with a suction bulb on the other. It drains the unwanted fluids, preventing the buildup in the wound. The compression garment is also there to make sure that you achieve the desired aesthetic results.
You should be able to go back to your normal everyday activities after about two weeks. Immediately after surgery, however, you’ll have to rest. Most importantly, you will have to avoid using your arms too much. Any lifting is off limits, and you have to be careful never to raise your arms above the level of your shoulders.
The resting period is crucial, because you don’t want to stretch or damage your incisions in any way. The wound has to heal properly and you have to be patient. The reward at the end of the road will be the fact that results of the arm lift are permanent, and you'll finally be carefree!