What is brachioplasty?

Brachioplasty, also known as 'arm lift' or ‘arm reduction’ surgery is a cosmetic procedure that reshapes the upper arms. The procedure reduces excess skin and fat resulting in better-proportioned and smoother skin on the upper arms. This type of arm lift surgery reduces localised pockets of fat while smoothing and tightening the underlying supportive upper arm tissue.

Brachioplasty is necessary where the patient desires a reduction of the size of the upper arm, and the skin is too loose for liposuction alone to reduce the size and achieve a good result. While liposuction removes fat effectively, it will not tighten the skin. 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.

Who gets brachioplasty surgery?

Brachioplasty surgery reshapes and reduces the loose skin of your upper arms, resulting in a more contoured and toned upper arm. People who seek out brachioplasty surgery have large amounts of excess, hanging upper arm skin. This can be a result of losing weight through diet, exercise or Bariatric surgery. In some cases this can be due to genetic inheritance or ageing. This loose upper arm skin can impact clothing choices and cause embarrassment. It is often called ‘tuck shop lady arms’ or ‘bat wings’.

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

Brachioplasty is not suitable for people who are:

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

Brachioplasty may be suitable if you:

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

How is brachioplasty surgery performed?

Brachioplasty arm surgery is performed a Cosmetic Surgeon under a general anaesthetic. It can be performed as a day or overnight stay surgery and takes between 2 to 3 hours to complete. In many cases, the arm reduction surgery is done in combination with liposuction in an effort to further empty the loose skin of any fat. This allows the Cosmetic Surgeon to only remove skin while preserving all of the important structures in the patient's arms or legs such as nerves, blood vessels and lymphatics.

Common steps that may be involved in 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.

What is recovery like after brachioplasty surgery?

After arm reduction surgery, most patients wear a compression garment for up to 6 weeks after the procedure. This compression gives vital support to the newly tightened upper arm skin upper arm and helps to result in a cosmetically pleasing result.

It is important to note that most patients will feel uncomfortable for a few days. Almost every surgery has this side effect. After a few days, most patients experience no significant pain or discomfort. You will need to keep the incision dry and clean and regularly dress the incisions.

While most arm reduction surgery patients return to work after 1 or 2 weeks, if your work is physically demanding it may take a little longer. Your Cosmetic Surgeon will advise you on how much time you need to take off work.

After brachioplasty surgery, it is important to avoid heavy lifting for at least 6 weeks. While most patients are comfortable to drive at 1 to 2 weeks it is important to avoid vigorous movements while driving.

Are there any risks or complications with brachioplasty surgery?

While modern cosmetic surgery is generally safe there is potential for risks and complications to occur. These include:

  • Short-term nausea following general anaesthesia and other risks related to anaesthesia
  • Heavy bleeding that may require a blood transfusion
  • Infection that may require treatment with antibiotics or in some cases, further surgery
  • An allergic reaction to sutures, dressings or antiseptic solutions
  • The formation of a large blood clot beneath an incision site that may lead to further surgery
  • 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:

  • Extensive visible and prominent scarring that may be thickened, widened or uneven pattern including keloids and hypertrophic scars. These scars may form over healed incisions and may be annoying, itchy, and unsightly. While they are not a threat to your health, they can restrict the clothing you want to wear.
  • Skin that does not heal may require a skin graft
  • Numbness around incision sites is usually temporary and will improve over time
  • 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.

Key facts about brachioplasty surgery

  • Brachioplasty surgery treats a loss in skin elasticity and removes excess fat deposits between the underarm and elbow. The results of brachioplasty are long lasting.
  • Skin loses elasticity and becomes saggy due to ageing or dramatic weight loss. Excessive fat deposits are those that cannot be eliminated through diet and exercise alone.
  • After brachioplasty surgery, it is important to keep the incision dry and clean, as well as dress the incisions regularly. You must refrain from taking part in any physical activities following surgery for the period of time recommended by your Cosmetic Surgeon.
  • Most people who have had brachioplasty surgery can return to work after 1 week. Recovery takes between 2 to 6 weeks.
  • After brachioplasty surgery, you will need to wear a compression garment for up to 3 weeks. Compression garments assist in the healing process, help with post-operative swelling and reduces the possibility of fluid build-up.
  • The benefits of brachioplasty surgery include: reducing bulky fat in the upper arms, creating a better contoured arm shape, removing loose underarm skin, and allowing clothes to fit better.

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

Before you choose a Cosmetic Surgeon for your brachioplasty surgery, we suggest you make a few consultation appointments from your shortlist. During the consultation, your Cosmetic Surgeon will ask you questions about your current health situation including current medications, allergies and any past or current medical treatments. They will also ask you about the desired physical outcomes of your surgery.

During the consultation 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.

Important to know

So you can make an informed decision, your elected Cosmetic Surgeon will discuss the possible risks associated with brachioplasty. Although the majority of patients do not experience these complications, it's important to understand how they can be managed in the event that they occur. 

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Mr Matthew Peters

Matthew Peters

10 Reviews

Plastic Surgeon
Queensland, Australia

Anonymous December 5th, 2017

On my first consultation with Dr Mathew Peters I was very impressed with his professional approach to me as his patient. He asked me what my primary problem areas were and my expectations from having the surgery I needed. He gave me clear descriptions of what to expect from my surgery and the time I would need off work. He also outlined my exercise routine that I would need to follow for a good recovery. I would not hesitate in referring Dr Peters to anyone seeking plastic surgery.
Mr Guy Watts

Guy Watts

35 Reviews

Plastic Surgeon
Western Australia, Australia

DrLyn July 6th, 2016

I am 62 year old teacher now without flabby arms. My procedure was performed on July 6. I am a perfectionist and I recognised that trait straight away in Dr Watts. A few weeks before my surgery my consultation with Dr Watts involved going through the procedure and what to expect post-surgery. I need to have a Plan B for what might happen and Dr Watts explained all the Plan Bs. He also provided me with information that I would later refer to, so that I knew my healing process was within normal parameters. This information proved invaluable. The night before my surgery I went to Dr Watt's rooms where he drew on my arms and marked out where the incisions would occur. Doing it the night before provided time and the opportunity to not have distractions. Dr Watts spoke to me right after surgery while I was in recovery. I do remember that. Everything had gone as planned. He visited with me again later that day and again the following morning. My husband was given Dr Watts phone contact to call if we had any concerns. I went home. The following day I went home (I live two and a half hours from the city on a farm). I had a phone call from Dr Watts that day checking to ensure I was okay. I messaged him back that I was. I had another phone call two days later. Again I messaged back that I was fine. I was. Later that day I noticed there was a lot more seepage on my right arm. More than I expected. My husband took a couple of photos, sent them to Dr Watts and he was right back with what to do. The following day while following Dr Watts instructions to change the dressing my husband was concerned so a couple more pics to Dr Watts. He had a phone conversation with my husband, organised for a script to be faxed to our local chemist, and would you believe there were no more leaks after that. My first check-up was a week post procedure. All was good. My second was the following week after we had removed the dressings in the shower. Again, all was good. I needed no tape. The incision had healed nicely. Dr Watts and his team have been outstanding. Sue, in the office, has helped me out so much. Ashe dropped of a bag of goodies after my procedure at Wembley Day Surgery for a special patient (me) who should have special treatment. That was such a lovely gesture. I have never had a surgeon call me at home after a procedure. I have never had the care and attention I received from Dr Watts. I would refer anyone who wants a highly professional, caring surgeon who will achieve excellent results and who will answer your questions if he hasn't already covered it in the information he provides. He is extremely thorough. Thank you Guy, Ashe and Sue.


Ask our surgeon community a question

Channy149 02/08/2016 SA

Arm lift and breast augmentation +/- lift

I am just inquiring if it is possible to get a Arm lift and breast augmentation +/- lift at the same time and if so what is the recovery time like eg is it extended or more difficult