The arm between the shoulder and the elbow is a common source of complaint. The arm loses definition with age and the skin can sag. Although weight loss is largely healthy, it can lead to the appearance of loose, non-elastic, sagging skin in the arms amongst other places. Muscular strengthening is of advantage but may not be able to tighten the skin or shape the arm as much as some would like.
Three common approaches to address those complaints are liposuction and arm lift, or a combination of techniques. Both such procedures can be done under local anesthesia.
Brachioplasty (arm lift) involves an incision that leaves a permanent scar but can remove more tissue and improve a more severe sagging of skin. Though it involves more healing, most people are very happy with the result.
- reduce the overall size of the arm,
- reduce, but probably not eliminate, hanging skin on the arm, and
- most importantly shape the arm to reflect underlying musculature, giving the arm a more toned appearance.
Short scar arm lift is a newer approach —a minimally invasive approach. The incision is only over the very upper arm where the most sagging skin is and liposuction from mid-arm to the elbow. Such a procedure can also be done under local anesthesia.
How long does it take?
Liposuction can take 90 minutes or less. Arm lift on both sides takes closer to 2 hours.
How long is the healing time?
The wounds are usually sealed so that one can take a shower within a week. As with all scars, it can take months to fully soften.
How long is the scar?
In a full brachioplasty, the scar extends from armpit to elbow. In some people the sagging skin is more localized and the scar can be from armpit to mid-arm. If shorter scar is possible for that anatomy, the scar is covered by a short-sleeved shirt, which can be a big advantage.
As above, a minimally invasive approach using liposuction of the arm can enable a shorter scar that will always be less noticeable in the long term.
Another key factor in minimizing the scar for brachioplasty is placement of the incisions in the least conspicuous location on the arm. This choice is as much an artistic one as a technical one and it depends on a patient’s needs as well. This choice is key to gaining a scar that widens minimally and is as inconspicuous as possible.
Does it hurt?
Most patients take only acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil) for pain control as the whole procedure is just below the skin.
When can I go back to work?
Usually 48 hours with dressings in place. A key component of a good scar is control of swelling which is done simply by wearing an ace bandage over the arm. One can do desk/office or other relatively light work in 2 days, heavier work about 2 weeks.
Can the procedures be done in the office?
Yes in the privacy of the office, in the AAAASF(American Association for the Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgery Facilities) approved operating room.
What are the advantages of local anesthesia?
It generally costs less as one does not need to hire an anesthesia provider. The second advantage is that life-threatening risks of general anesthesia, however unlikely, are eliminated.
"I love my arms. It makes such a difference."
M., 8 months after liposuction of the arms.
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