Arm Lift Surgery
Patients who have experienced significant weight loss, often in combination with advancing age, experience sagging skin in a number of areas of the body. The cause of sag is due to either the body exceeding the elastic recoil of the tissue after weight gain or, as a result of the skin losing its natural elasticity through age. In the vast majority of cases a combination of these two is to blame.
One common site where this gives a cosmetically undesirable effect is sagging arms. Sagging arms or ‘bingo wings’ make it difficult for patients to wear the clothes they would choose and certainly make it hard to wear more revealing items. There may also be a functional aspect to having flapping skin making it harder to exercise, self care or care for others. In extreme cases, underarm hygiene can also be affected.
If you believe that your excess arm skin causes you physical or psychological distress then it may well be worth considering a discussion with a plastic surgeon to see what can be done to improve things for you.
Please view the short video below where Adam talks through aspects of arm and thigh lifts:
Your initial consultation will discuss your arms but also you general health and suitability for surgery in general.
Our primary concern is your physical well being. Has your weight loss been gentle, well maintained and steady. Are you now at a weight that you can be happy with going forward. Your exact weight is not necessarily the most important factor more, that this is a weight you believe you can maintain for the rest of your life.
Arm lift surgery can be minor or intermediate. All intermediate arm lift surgery is performed under a general anaesthetic and so your fitness for such a procedure will be assessed. Your skin quality and degree of stretch is a factor. For some patients the sagging not only extends towards the elbow but can also extend down the side of the chest. These patients would potentially consider an extended arm lift with a scar crossing the armpit.
You will be given a range of options which are best suited to you. In the vast majority of cases, surgery is the only really effective way to improve significant arm sagging. If there are any non surgical techniques available these will be discussed. If you decide to go ahead then you will be given a quote for the surgery including all post surgical care and recovery. This quote will include consideration of any complications and additional care or management.
Arm Lift surgery, as mentioned, is typically performed under general anaesthetic. In very mild cases a small incision in the armpit can be performed but this will only tighten very subtle sagging which does not extend along the length of the arm.
Your surgical experience will start with information sent, photographs and consent. The process and potential complications of arm lift surgery will be discussed in detail. This is your opportunity to ask any questions you may have as well as consider what outcome you’re hoping to achieve and discuss the potential downsides to arm lift surgery.
On the day of surgery, you will be seen by your surgeon and anesthetist. Markings will be made and you will be brought to theatre under general anaesthetic. Arm lift surgery usually involves a combination of liposuction to remove the circumferential fat of the arm and then removal of the excess skin with closure achieved with dissolving stitches without too much tension.
After what is typically an hour long surgery, unless combined with other procedures, you will be returned to the day case ward for your immediate recovery.
Your dressings will include a absorbent waterproof dressing on the wounds themselves with some additional sticky dressings to support the skin as it heals. You will be able to shower as long as you don’t soak the dressings completely. Your activity will be limited by your ability to raise your arms above your head and simply by comfort. Arm lift surgery is not one of the more painful surgical procedures but, should you experience pain or discomfort then post operative medication will be issued. The key consideration is to be able to take it easy for at least one to two weeks following your operation to allow the skin to heal without additional tension or stress.
Follow up will be arranged typically for approximately one week where the dressings will be removed and the wounds inspected. At this point the surgical scars often look crimped and uneven. This is entirely normal and should not cause concern. The skin inevitably relaxes and the scars soften and straighten over a three to six week period following surgery.
Arm lift surgery, although relatively straight forward, is not without it’s potential complications. The key consideration is the balance between scar tension and aesthetic result. Unfortunately these two completely oppose each other. For this reason, closure of the wounds needs to be done without excessive tension. Tension causes the car scars to widen, separate and become lumpy and thick. Attempting to achieve too much tightness can not only cause stretched scars but can cause a transient compromise of blood supply to the skin and to the extremity. For this reason, an ideal arm lift employs just the right amount of tension. ‘A little bit tighter’ is almost certain to result in a worse result overall. Sadly, as many patients will already know, skin relaxes. Skin relaxation the reason why arm lift surgery is needed in the first place. The scars even when stitched as tight as is safely possible will inevitably soften and relax and some of the laxity will return. This is not a complication but an inevitable result of arm lift surgery and needs to be considered by the patient before deciding to go ahead.
Some patients make slightly unsightly scars. Again this is due to the elastic quality of their individual skin and sometimes their skin pigmentation and sometimes, ethnicity. Scar management techniques can improve the quality of the scars but the underarm area is not an area in the body well known for making perfect scars. Furthermore, with arms tucked in at your side, the scars are hard to see but with arms behind the head or with the upper arm slightly away from the body, the scars will be visible from behind. This is important to understand and accept as, especially in the early phases, the scars from arm lift surgery are not hard to find. Again, you will be consented on how this one of the downsides to arm lift surgery in general.
Infections or wound breakdown are rare but not unheard of. These are often effectively treated with oral antibiotics, but occasionally require additional surgery. Even excellent looking scars in the early phases post recovery, can subsequently stretch and become red or rarely, hypertrophic or keloid. Again scar quality will be discussed in detail prior to surgery.
Is Arm Lift Surgery for me?
If you are concerned about the heaviness and fullness of your upper arms then arm lift surgery is certainly worth considering. The trade off, as discussed, is an improvement in contour at the cost of potentially relatively long scars which usually heal very well, but there is no guarantee of this. Please bear all of these factors in mind when discussing arm lift surgery with your surgeon.
Arm Lift Surgery
Time in Theatre
Time in Hospital
Recovery to Comfort
Recovery back to work
Back to full exercise