Underarm Surgery (Brachioplasty)
What is a Brachioplasty?
Commonly known as an arm lift, brachioplasty is a surgical procedure which tightens loose, sagging skin and removes excess fat deposits in the upper arm that develop with age or significant weight loss.
Who is a good candidate for Brachioplasty?
Candidates must be in good health, have no active diseases or serious, pre-existing medical conditions, and must have realistic expectations of the outcome of the surgery. In most cases, patients choose this procedure for cosmetic reasons, but in some patients sagging skin becomes so severe that the skin hangs down, creating what is called a "bat's wing deformity." This can restrict motion and interfere with the use of the arm. Patients considering brachioplasty should be aware that a significant scar will be present from the elbow to the armpit, and should not have the operation unless they feel comfortable with the scar or can wear clothes that hide it. This may involve a change of clothing styles, but in most cases the benefit of removing excess skin outweighs this issue.
NOTE: You may not be a candidate for surgery if you smoke, have recently quit smoking, or if you are exposed to second-hand smoke. Primary and secondary smoking decreases blood flow to the body's tissues. This can result in prolonged wound healing, skin loss, infection, increased scarring, and a number of other complications depending on the kind of procedure performed. Click here for more information related to smoking.
How is the procedure performed?
First, the patient stands or sits while an area of excess skin is marked. This excess skin is then removed. The area removed is usually shaped like either an ellipse or a triangle. Some fat is left to cover and protect the nerves and arteries, but liposuction is sometimes performed to provide a smooth result. After the excess fat and skin are removed the wound is sutured closed. Occasionally, a drain may be used.
Options to Enhance the Procedure
In some cases your plastic surgeon may suggest liposuction in conjunction with an arm lift to remove excess fat in the upper arms. Liposuction alone will not improve the condition of loose skin.
List of Physicians Who Perform the Brachioplasty
For details about education, experience, and specialty in this clinical area, please visit these physician profile pages:
Planning for Your Surgery
First, schedule a personal consultation with your plastic surgeon. Communication is vital in reaching your goals. You will have the opportunity to discuss your goals and the results you'd like to achieve. Your surgeon will work with you to reach an understanding about what you can expect from this procedure and what long-term benefits you will experience. Every patient is different, and your surgeon will choose the surgical technique and treatment plan that is right for you. During your initial consultation:
Preparing for Your Surgery
You will be given specific instructions on how to prepare for your surgery. A pre-operative information packet will be provided that explains everything you should do and know before your surgery date. Your surgeon will instruct you on how to prepare for surgery, including guidelines on eating and drinking, smoking, and which vitamins and medications should be taken or avoided. You should arrange for someone to drive you home after your surgery, whether your surgery is done on an outpatient or inpatient basis. You may also want to make arrangements for someone to help you out for a day or two after you leave the hospital.
Where Your Surgery Will be Performed
Your procedure will take place in the University of Michigan Hospitals state-of-the-art surgical suites and recovery areas. The majority of these procedures are completed on an out-patient basis.
Types of Anesthesia
You'll remain comfortable throughout the entire procedure. In most cases, general anesthetic is used so that you will sleep throughout the procedure.
After Your Surgery
It is very important that you follow your surgeon's instructions. This will promote healing and improve progress towards your new physical appearance. Also, it is important that you attend all scheduled follow-up appointments so that your surgeon can assess your long-term results and answer any questions or concerns you may have.