Arm Lift Procedure

What Is An Arm Lift?

Brachioplasty, or more commonly known as an arm lift, is a surgical procedure that reshapes underneath the upper arm, from the underarm down to the elbow.

Improving Your Look With An Arm Lift

If your upper arms have a sagging and drooping appearance, it may be caused by weight changes, aging, and to some degree, heredity. Strengthening the muscles of your upper arm with exercise may improve the overall tone of your upper arm, but it won't correct the elasticity of the excess skin or fix weakened tissues that have collected fat deposits.

If exercise has not improved the tone underneath your upper arms and they still appear that they are sagging due to the excess skin and fat, an arm lift may be appropriate for you. Understand that to correct these problems, you will have a visible scar on the inside of your upper arm.

What Will An Arm Lift Do:

  • Reduce excess sagging skin and fat between the underarm and the elbow
  • Reshape your arm, producing smoother skin and contours 
  • Smooth and tighten the underlying tissue which helps shape the upper arm 
  • Minimize fat pockets in the upper arm 
  • Produce a more toned and proportionate appearance 

Should I Consider An Arm Lift?

An arm lift procedure is appropriate for individuals:

  • Who have pronounced laxity in their upper arm skin
  • Whose weight is consistent and healthy for their proportion
  • Who are overall in good health and don't have pre-existing medical conditions that could adversely effect the healing process or even increase potential risks of surgery 
  • Who do not smoke 
  • Have a positive self-image and surgery expectations that are realistic

What To Expect During Your Consultation With Dr. Bruce Van Natta

A safe and successful arm lift procedure depends very much on your being completely candid during your consultation. Be sure to address any problems, concerns and questions with Dr. Van Natta. He will ask you a number of questions about your health, desires and lifestyle.

Be Prepared to Discuss:

  • Why you want arm lift surgery and your expectations and desired outcome
  • Medical conditions, drug allergies and medical treatments 
  • Use of current medications, vitamins, herbal supplements, alcohol, tobacco and drugs 
  • Previous surgeries 
  • Family disease history

Dr. Van Natta May Also:

  • Evaluate your general health status and any pre-existing health conditions or risk factors
  • Take photographs for your medical record 
  • Discuss likely outcomes of arm lift surgery and any risks or potential complications
  • Discuss the use of anesthesia during your arm lift procedure

Preparing For Arm Lift Surgery

Prior To Arm Lift Surgery, Dr. Van Natta May Ask You To:

  • Get lab testing or a general medical evaluation
  • Take certain medications or adjust your current medications 
  • Stop smoking well in advance of surgery 
  • Avoid taking aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs and herbal supplements, as they can increase bleeding

Special Instructions You Receive Will Cover:

  • What to do the day of surgery
  • The use of anesthesia during your arm lift 
  • Post-operative care and follow-up

Your arm lift surgery will be performed at Meridian Plastic Surgery Center, an AAAHC accredited facility utilizing seasoned anesthesiologists from St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana.

You'll Need Help

Be sure to arrange for someone to drive you to and from surgery and to stay with you for at least the first night following surgery.

What Happens During Arm Lift Surgery?

Step 1 - Anesthesia

Dr.Van Natta performs arm lift surgery under general anesthesia administered by a board certified anesthesiologist. The procedure takes approximately 1 ½ hours.

Step 2 - Incision

The pattern and length of the incision is dependent on how much and where the excess skin is located that needs to be removed, as well as Dr. Van Natta's best judgment. Incisions will typically be placed on the inside of the arm, and usually extend from the underarm to above the elbow. (Depending on your personal situation, incisions may be more limited). If excess fat needs to be minimized during your arm lift, it will be removed by liposuction.

Incision - Inner Arm

Inner Arm Incision 1Inner Arm Incision 2

Underlying tissue will also be reshaped and tightened using internal sutures. The skin is then smoothed over your arm.

Incision - Back of Arm

Back of arm incision 1Back of arm incision 2

Incision - Minimal

Minimal incision 1Minimal incision 2

(Illustrations courtesy of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.)

Step 3 - Incision Closing

Incisions are closed with sutures that are absorbed by your body.

Step 4 - Seeing Your Results

Your results will be visible following your arm lift procedure. You will notice a tighter and smoother shape of your upper arm, however, the full impact will most likely be hidden with minor swelling from the surgery. Once the swelling goes down, you'll notice that your upper arm's feel, tone and appearance is greatly improved.

Arm Lift Risks and Complications, Important Facts You Should Know

Only you can decide if having arm lift surgery fits into your personal situation. You need to feel that the benefits of having this procedure and the results you wish to achieve outweigh any potential risks and possible complications.

Dr. Van Natta and/or his staff will explain in detail the risks associated with surgery. Once you are comfortable in understanding any of the risks and complications, and choose to move ahead with arm lift surgery, you will then be asked to sign consent forms.

Arm Lift Surgery Risks Are:

  • Scarring - these arm scars are sometimes more significant than scars on other parts of the body. Ultimately, scar making is genetically determined.
  • Hematoma or bleeding
  • Infection
  • Accumulation of fluids
  • Risks of using anesthetics
  • Incisions that heal poorly
  • Rare occurrence of loss of skin
  • Blood clots
  • Numbness or other skin sensations
  • Prolonged swelling and/or discoloration of your skin
  • Asymmetry
  • Rare occurrence of the wound site separating
  • Fat necrosis, or where the deep fatty tissue could die
  • Rare damage to blood vessels, muscles, lungs, and nerves
  • Persistent pain
  • Extremely rare occurrence of pulmonary complications or deep vein thrombosis
  • Sutures that surface through the skin becoming visible and produce irritation (requires suture removal)
  • Additional revision surgery with additional expense

These possible risks and potential complications will be fully discussed with you during your initial consultation. It is common to feel nervous or anxious about your surgery, whether it is excitement for your arm lift results and improved appearance or stress that comes prior to having surgery. It is important to discuss these feelings and all of your questions directly with Dr. Van Natta during your consultation.

Once You Are Home

As with any surgical procedure, should you experience any of the following symptoms: pains in your chest, labored or difficulty breathing, or heart beats that seem unusual, quickly get medical attention. It is possible that you may require hospitalization and treatment. Although good results are expected with your arm lift surgery, in some cases it may not be possible to achieve the results you desire with one procedure and another surgery may be required.

Your Recovery

Following Dr. Van Natta's postoperative instructions is crucial to the successful results of your arm lift. Do not subject your incision(s) to any of the following: swelling, motion, abrasion, or excessive force during your recovery and healing process. Bandages or dressings may be administered to your incision sites after your surgery, and your arms may be wrapped to diminish swelling with either a compression garment or elastic bandage. Dr. Van Natta will give you specific instructions on how to care for yourself after surgery.

Specific Instructions Are:

  • Caring for your treatment site
  • Applying topical medications or taking oral medications that help healing and minimize your risk for infection
  • Checking the incision areas to look for concerns and noticing any changes in your overall health
  • Following-up with Dr. Van Natta.

Be sure to ask specific questions about what you can expect during your individual recovery period.

Arm Lift Results

Results of your arm lift procedure are typically long-lasting. You will need to maintain a normal, healthy weight and stay physically active and fit. It is natural that as your body ages, you may lose some firmness, however, most of your results will be relatively permanent.

Arm Lift Costs Include:

  • Fee for your surgeon
  • Costs of the surgical facility
  • Fees for using anesthetics 
  • Prescription medication(s) 
  • Garments for post-surgery
  • Medical tests

Typically, health insurance does not cover the cost of an arm lift. Our practice offers patient financing plans, so be sure to ask us about this option.

Your Satisfaction Includes More Than The Cost of Surgery

When you are in the process of deciding on a plastic surgeon to perform your arm lift, consider the surgeon's experience and your comfort level with him or her. These aspects are equally important to consider along with the final cost of the surgery. As with most things in life, you get what you pay for.

Arm Lift Glossary

  • Arm lift: A surgical procedure, also known as brachioplasty, to correct sagging of the upper arms.
  • Axilla: The underarm area. 
  • Brachioplasty: A surgical procedure, also known as arm lift, to correct sagging of upper arms. 
  • General anesthesia: Drugs and/or gases used during an operation to relieve pain and alter consciousness. 
  • Hematoma: Blood pooling beneath the skin. 
  • Intravenous sedation: Sedatives administered by injection into a vein to help you relax. 
  • Liposuction: Also called lipoplasty or suction lipectomy, this procedure vacuums out fat from beneath the skin's surface to reduce fullness. 
  • Local anesthesia: A drug injected directly to the site of an incision during an operation to relieve pain. 
  • Skin laxity: Degree of loose skin. 
  • Sutures: Stitches used by surgeons to hold skin and tissue together.

Questions To Ask Your Plastic Surgeon

  • Are you certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery?
  • Were you specifically trained in the field of plastic surgery? 
  • How many years of plastic surgery training have you had? 
  • Is the office-based surgical facility where you perform surgery accredited by a nationally- or state-recognized accrediting agency, or is it state-licensed or Medicare-certified?
  • Am I a good candidate for this procedure? 
  • What will be expected of me in order to get the best results? 
  • Where and how will you perform my procedure? 
  • Is there a specific surgical technique recommended for me? 
  • How long of a recovery period can I expect, and what kind of help will I need during my recovery? 
  • What are the risks and complications associated with my procedure?
  • How are complications handled? 
  • How can I expect my arms to look over time? 
  • What are my options if I am dissatisfied with the cosmetic outcome of my arm lift?
  • Do you have before-and-after photos I can look at for this procedure and what results are reasonable for me?

Use This Checklist As a Guide During Your Consultation

The following points are important relative to Dr. Bruce Van Natta:

  • He is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.
  • He was trained specifically in the field of plastic surgery.
  • He has been in practice for 25 years.
  • His surgical facility, Meridian Plastic Surgery Center, is accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency, and it is state-licensed and Medicare-certified.

How are complications handled? If you experience a rare complication requiring reoperation, Dr. Van Natta often won't charge for his services, but you may well have additional expenses for the operating room as well as anesthesia.