How brachioplasty surgery removes excess upper arm fat and saggy skin

By August 30, 2017 October 30th, 2017 Plastic Surgeons, Procedures
Brachioplasty before and after Dr David Sharp

After years of struggling with your weight, you’ve finally reached your goal. The bariatric surgery has been successful and you look and feel great!

It’s like you’re a new person. You walk 10,000 steps most days, go to the gym and eat healthy food at most meals.

Everything seems okay – until you take your clothes off. Your Cosmetic Surgeon warned you that you would have excessive and loose hanging skin after the gastric bypass surgery. And it didn’t bother you then.

Now that you’ve lost a significant amount of weight you like they way you look – except for your upper arms! When you go shopping, you struggle to find a top that covers your ‘problem area’. And at the gym you have to upsize your clothes so your upper arms are covered up as you run on the treadmill.

But what if you didn’t have to keep your upper arms covered up because you’re embarrassed with your excessive, saggy skin? It is possible!

Brachioplasty surgery reshapes and reduces the loose skin of your upper arms, resulting in a more contoured and toned upper arm. Arm reduction surgery is a very popular cosmetic procedure for patients who have lost a lot of weight and feel self-conscious about wobbly and sagging upper arm skin.

What is brachioplasty surgery?

Brachioplasty surgery (often called ‘tuck shop lady arms’ or ‘bat wings’) is a cosmetic procedure that reshapes the upper arms by reducing excess skin and fat to create better-proportioned upper arms.

It is also known as ‘arm lift’ or ‘arm reduction’ surgery. To tighten and smooth the underlying supportive upper arm tissue, brachioplasty surgery decreases localised pockets of fat.

Patients who get brachioplasty surgery want to reduce the size and tighten the skin of their upper arms. While liposuction procedures can remove fat successfully, it will not tighten the skin.

Who is a candidate for brachioplasty surgery?

The best candidates for brachioplasty surgery have lost large amounts of weight (through exercise, diet or bariatric surgery) resulting in excessive hanging upper arm skin. This excessive and loose upper arm skin can cause embarrassment and impact clothing choices.

Your Cosmetic Surgeon will assess your general health and condition before planning the best treatment for you. It is important to note that brachioplasty surgery is a surgical cosmetic procedure that may not be suitable for everyone.

Brachioplasty is not suitable for people who are:

  • Unable to have an anaesthetic
  • At a high risk of having surgical complications
  • Have poor healing ability or are prone to bleeding tendencies.

Brachioplasty surgery may be suitable if you:

  • Have excess soft tissue along your upper arm area
  • Are physically healthy without any medical conditions that can increase the risk of surgery or impair healing
  • Have realistic expectations about the outcome of your surgery
  • Have a stable weight
  • You are a non-smoker or have stopped smoking

What happens during brachioplasty surgery?

Patients who get brachioplasty arm surgery from a Cosmetic Surgeon will have a general anaesthetic. This surgery can be performed as a day or overnight stay surgery. Brachioplasty surgery takes between 2 to 3 hours to complete.

In many cases, arm reduction surgery is performed in combination with liposuction. This allows the Cosmetic Surgeon to only remove skin while preserving all of the important structures in the patient’s arms such as blood vessels, nerves, and lymphatics.

Common steps that a Cosmetic Surgeon may take during brachioplasty surgery include:

  • An incision being made over the skin in the upper arm. The length and pattern is dependent on where the excess skin needs to be removed. Generally these incisions are made on the back of the arm, on the inner arm and from the underarm to the elbow.
  • During the brachioplasty procedure, any excess fat is removed through liposuction.
  • Internal sutures tighten the underlying supportive tissues to help form new arm contours.
  • To drain excessive blood and accumulated fluid, a small, thin tube is placed under the skin.
  • Finally, the incisions are closed either by skin adhesives, tapes or sutures.

Read the key facts about brachioplasty surgery here.

What is recovery like after brachioplasty surgery?

After arm reduction surgery, you will need to wear a compression garment for up to 6 weeks after the procedure. This garment will give you vital support to your newly tightened upper arm skin upper arm and will help you get the best cosmetic result. Following your surgery, you will need to keep the incision dry and clean and regularly dress the incisions.

It is important to note that most patients will feel uncomfortable for a few days after brachioplasty surgery. While most patients return to work after 1 or 2 weeks, if your work is physically demanding it may take a little longer. It is important to avoid heavy lifting for at least 6 weeks after brachioplasty surgery.

What risks and complications are associated with brachioplasty surgery?

While modern cosmetic surgery is usually safe, it is important to note there is potential for risks and complications to occur. These include:

  • Heavy bleeding that may require a blood transfusion
    The formation of a large blood clot beneath an incision site that may lead to further surgery
  • Short-term nausea following general anaesthesia and other risks related to anaesthesia
    Infection that may require treatment with antibiotics or in some cases, further surgery
  • An allergic reaction to sutures, dressings or antiseptic solutions
  • Life threatening conditions including heart attack, pulmonary embolism or stroke
  • Pain, bruising and swelling
  • Slow healing that can be related to diabetes or smoking

Specific risks and complications associated with brachioplasty surgery include:

  • Skin that does not heal may require a skin graft
  • Numbness around incision sites is usually temporary and will improve over time
  • Extensive visible and prominent scarring that may be thickened, widened or uneven pattern including keloids and hypertrophic scars.
  • Asymmetry of the upper arm shape
  • Restrictive movement to the upper arm skin that has been tightened.
  • Excess fluid accumulation under the skin (known as a seroma). This may require one or more drainage procedures with a needle.

How to find the best Australian Cosmetic Surgeons who perform brachioplasty surgery

If you’re considering brachioplasty surgery, we suggest you make a few consultation appointments with the Cosmetic Surgeons from your shortlist. During the consultation, they will ask you about the desired physical outcomes of your surgery. The Cosmetic Surgeon will also ask you questions about your current health situation including current medications, allergies and any past or current medical treatments.

The Cosmetic Surgeon will also examine your arms and take measurements, discuss the recovery process and advise you of any risks and potential complications of the surgery. You can find the best Australian Cosmetic Surgeons who specialise in brachioplasty surgery here.


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