Brachioplasty / Armlift

An arm lift, or brachioplasty, is a surgical procedure that reshapes the upper arm, from the underarm region to the elbow. The procedure is performed to:

  • Reduce excess sagging skin that droops downward
  • Tighten and smoothen the underlying supportive tissue that defines the shape of the upper arm
  • Reduce localized pockets of fat in the upper arm region

In general, the best candidates for an arm lift include:

  • Adults with significant upper arm skin laxity
  • Adults of any age whose weight is relatively stable and who are not significantly overweight
  • Healthy individuals who do not have medical conditions that can impair healing or increase risk of surgery
  • Non-smokers
  • Individuals with a positive outlook and realistic expectations

Brachioplasty is not a surgical treatment for being overweight. Obese individuals who intend to lose weight should postpone all forms of body-contouring surgery until they have reached a stable weight.

There are a variety of different techniques used by plastic surgeons for brachioplasty. Brachioplasty can be combined with other forms of body-contouring surgery, including liposuction, or other elective surgeries.

When performed by itself, brachioplasty is usually an outpatient procedure and surgery time is approximately 2 to 3 hours. The typical recovery time for brachioplasty is 1 to 3 weeks. Drains may be placed during the procedure. The use of support garments post-operatively may be recommended to help reshape the arm.

Questions covered on this page:

  1. Am I good Candidate for Upper Arm Lift
  2. Arm Lift Standard Procedure Techniques
  3. Pre-Operative
  4. Arm Lift Benefits/Advantages/Options
  5. Arm Lift Risks/Complications/Patient Safety
  6. Arm Lift Recovery Process
  7. Will arm lift surgery be painful?
  8. Will there be scarring with arm lift surgery?
  9. What are some typical short term side effects of having arm lift surgery?
  10. What type of anesthesia will be used for arm lift surgery?

Am I good Candidate for Upper Arm Lift

Arm Lift surgery can be performed on a large variety of patients including normal weight patients who simply need a little tightening. However, the majority of patients are massive weight loss patients that have stabilized their weight loss and do not have out of control medical problems. They present with excess skin and fat in their upper arms. Many of these patients complain that their arms feel and look like “bat wings”. Occasionally some older women have a lot of extra skin that is bothersome and would also be reasonable candidates.

Arm Lift Standard Procedure Techniques

For patients who have minimal upper arm fat excess, with no skin excess, liposuction alone can be effective. For patients that have some extra skin that is minimal in nature and is located near the arm pit, an improvement can be attained through a scar limited to the arm pit. For patients who present with a lot of upper arm excess skin, as in the case of most massive weight loss patients, tissue must be removed through a scar that runs from the elbow, through the arm pit, and possibly onto the side of the chest.


If you are a smoker, you will be asked to stop smoking well in advance of surgery. Smoking can affect your ability to heal.

Aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs (Ibuprofen, Alleve, Advil, Motrin, Mobic etc), and blood thinners (Coumadin, Warfarin, Plavix, Eliquis, Xarelto, Pradaxa etc.) can cause increased bleeding, so you should avoid taking these medications for a period of time before surgery.

Other food supplements can also cause bleeding such as Gingko biloba, garlic, ginger, Omega 3 fatty acids, fish oil, ginseng, Vitamins C & E, Glucosamine, Chondroitin, Saw Palmetto etc.. Discuss the pros and cons of discontinuing these medications with Dr. Sian. Dr. Sian will provide you with additional preoperative instructions.

Arm Lift Benefits/Advantages/Options

  • Reduction in upper arm excess
  • Better self image/confidence
  • Being able to wear short sleeve clothing without being self conscious

Arm Lift Risks/Complications/Patient Safety

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Unattractive scarring
  • Swelling of the hands
  • Seroma formation (seromas are fluid collections that can arise after surgery along the incision line)

Arm Lift Recovery Process

  • Dr. Sian may recommend the use of compression garments for the arms
  • Most surgeons prefer that the arms are elevated for a few days, above the heart
  • The patient may experience a slow return to normal function of the arms and hands (over a couple of weeks)

You should avoid Aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications for the first few days after your arm lift surgery. Smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke may impair the healing process and should be avoided.

Will Arm Lift surgery be painful?

Postoperative pain is subjective and will vary considerably from person to person. The average patient undergoing an upper arm reduction procedure will usually require a few days of oral pain medication to treat the discomfort. Over a one to two week period, most people resolve majority of their acute postoperative pain.

Will there be scarring with Arm Lift surgery?

Upper arm reduction involves the removal of skin and necessitates the creation of a scar that starts near the elbow, traverses to the arm pit, and may cross onto the chest wall. Any scar goes through a maturation process, which takes at least a year to complete. Most scars are conspicuous initially and gradually fade over time. Some surgeons prefer to place the upper arm reduction scar on the inner arm aspect so that it is not visible when the patient’s arm is by their side. Other surgeons prefer to place the scar a bit more towards the back of the arm so that it is not visible from the front, especially when the patient is observed from the front while raising the arm.

What are some typical short term side effects of having an Arm Lift?

Immediately after surgery some patients will have a feeling of tightness in the upper arm as the area swells due to the trauma of surgery. Some patients may develop swelling and some tingling of the hands as well. Most of these symptoms resolve with time.

What type of anesthesia will be used for Arm Lift surgery?

Dr. Sian prefers to use general anesthesia when performing arm lifts. If the area to be treated is relatively small, Dr. Sian may occasionally perform the procedure under local anesthesia with or without IV sedation.