Upper Body

Arm lift

What is it?

Arm lift surgery removes loose and sagging skin on the upper arms, restoring a smooth contour to the area. It is particularly effective for people who have achieved major weight loss, which has resulted in folds of excess skin that has lost elasticity.

What to expect

Arm lift surgery is performed under general anaesthetic and takes one and a half to two hours. Your surgeon will make a long incision between your elbow and armpit, before removing sections of skin and fat. You may also be given liposuction to remove excess fat. The remaining skin and tissue will be lifted and stitched into place, resulting in a tight, smooth look.

Dressings will be applied and drains will be inserted during surgery to drain any fluid or blood from the wound. You will be given medication for pain relief.

What results can be achieved?

It can be frustrating after major weight loss to be left with folds of excess skin that you cannot get rid of. It can affect your confidence and self-esteem. It may also restrict the clothing you can wear and you may find it challenging to take part in sporting activities that require you to wear short sleeves. This procedure will remove excess skin and restore a smooth, youthful profile to your upper arms, enabling you to live a full and active life again.

Possible risks

All surgery carries risks and cosmetic surgery is no exception. Fortunately, there are rarely any significant complications associated with arm lift surgery, which is a commonly performed procedure.

After surgery

Most people experience mild discomfort after arm lift surgery, which is easily controlled by painkillers.

It is advisable to take a week to 10 days off work and, during this period, you should take things slowly to help the wounds to heal. You should wear the compression garment day and night for six weeks to offer extra support and speed up your recovery. Bruising and swelling will normally take around six to eight weeks to subside fully. The majority of patients recover well following arm lift surgery and can return to all normal activities within four to six months.

You will be invited to the clinic for a wound check a week after surgery. Your surgeon will advise you about showering and getting the incision sites wet. You should refrain from physical exercise for six weeks after surgery.

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Common risks

The risk of most types of cosmetic surgery is similar and these will be discussed with you during your consultation. You can help to minimise certain risks by following your surgeon’s advice and instructions after surgery. Chest infection, problems with wound healing and tissue damage are particular complications in smokers. For this reason, you may be asked to quit smoking prior to surgery. Some of the common risks of arm lift surgery include:

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  • Minor discomfort – this can be treated with over the counter painkillers.
  • Minor swelling and bruising – your surgeon will advise you how long this will last based upon your individual procedure.
  • Scarring – Scars will be positioned so they are hidden within normal clothing as much as possible. Scars fade over months to become paler and less obvious. However, they will always be present and visible when you are undressed. In most people they will be thin and silvery, but in some they can stretch, move or become red and sensitive. In some cases you may need scar revision surgery.
  • Dissolving skin stitches not holding properly – if this occurs the stitches may need to be removed under local anaesthetic.
  • Stitch granuloma – sometimes a tender lump or abscess can occur at the stitch site. This is generally more common where the skin is thinner, such as in front of or behind the ear. The stitch may need to be removed or it may be treated with antibiotics.
  • Asymmetry – No paired structures in the human body are perfectly symmetrical and you should not expect your arm lift surgery to achieve total symmetry. It relies on the surgeon’s artistic eye. The arms should look the same, but may not measure exactly the same. Your surgeon will discuss this with you at your initial consultation.
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More serious risks
The symptoms listed above are normally temporary or without serious consequences. There are some more serious risks associated with cosmetic surgery, which will be discussed with your surgeon as part of the initial consultation.

Plastic surgery alone cannot change your life but it can give you the confidence to make those changes for yourself.

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