Arm Lift (Brachioplasty)

What is a brachioplasty?

Brachioplasty, or arm lift, is a common surgical procedure that reshapes the upper arm by removing excess skin and underlying fat tissue, commonly referred to as ‘batwings’. Excess skin and fat is often a result of age related increases in skin laxity or significant weight loss that leaves behind sagging skin. Although exercise is beneficial for muscle strength, tone and overall health, it does very little to address these skin changes.

Who is a suitable candidate for brachioplasty?

Brachioplasty is intended for both men and women who have complaints of excess skin and fat of the arm. Knowing if brachioplasty is right for you is difficult, however, a consultation with a plastic surgeon from the University of Toronto will help determine if this procedure will help you achieve your goals. The following are considerations that may be helpful in determining if a brachioplasty is right for you:

  • You desire a more toned and proportionate appearance of your arms
  • Your weight is relatively stable and you are not significantly overweight
  • You have undesirable excess skin and/or fat between your underarms and elbows
  • You understand that to achieve an improved appearance, surgery will result in a scar placed in an inconspicuous area on your arms
  • You understand that scar outcome is difficult to predict and varies by individual
  • You are committed to being healthy and have no medical conditions that may impair wound healing or increase the risk of surgery (For example: obesity, diabetes, smoker)
  • You have never had problems with swelling in your arms (lymphedema) as a result of mastectomy with removal of lymph nodes

What are the goals of brachioplasty surgery?

In combination with a healthy lifestyle, brachioplasty will help achieve a more toned and proportionate appearance of your upper arms. This surgery will improve arm shape and increase your confidence wearing form-fitting clothing.

What is done during brachioplasty surgery?

This is a common procedure performed by plastic surgeons that requires a general anesthetic.  In the preoperative area, the surgeon will mark areas on your upper arms that will be reduced during surgery. Once this is complete, you will be taken to the operating room for the general anesthetic and procedure. During the procedure, an incision will be made on your upper arm followed by careful removal of excess tissue to protect underlying nerves and vessels. Liposuction may be required to help with fat removal and contouring. Once the excess tissue is removed, careful attention will be paid to closing the skin envelope with sutures.  At the end of the procedure, compressive bandages will be placed on your upper arms to prevent swelling and help support the tissue.  These bandages will be worn postoperatively until you see the plastic surgeon in clinic, at which point they will be removed for the first time.

Where is the surgery performed?

All surgeries are performed at Women’s College Hospital as day surgery by the plastic surgery senior resident under the supervision of a faculty plastic surgeon.

What to expect in the recovery? How long will I be off work? When can I resume exercise?

The procedure itself can take from 1 to 3 hours depending on how much work is required. For the best results, you should plan on resting and taking it easy after surgery. For the first few days after surgery, most patients experience some discomfort at the surgical site. After which you will starting feeling better and returning to your normal self. You should plan on being off work for 1 to 2 weeks. During your recovery, you should refrain from strenuous physical activity including lifting and pulling for 6 weeks following surgery.

Where are the scars?

To achieve an improved appearance, brachioplasty surgery removes excess skin and loose tissue at the cost of creating a scar.  As plastic surgeons, we realize the importance of the cosmetic outcome.  We will make every effort to optimize the scar size and conceal it in the least visible area of the upper arm. The length and placement of the incision will vary based on location and extent of excess tissue to be removed. The typical brachioplasty incision starts in the underarm and continues to the elbow. This scar will be on the inner surface or back of the arm, to enhance the cosmetic outcome. It is important to realize that scar formation varies between individuals and is highly dependent on a person’s genetic predisposition.  Scars typically fade over time but their final dimensions and colour are difficult to predict.  At the consultation, the plastic surgeon will talk to you about this.

What are some common complications of surgery?

Complications of brachioplasty, like those of other cosmetic procedures, are uncommon but may include unfavorable scarring, asymmetries, bleeding, infection, swelling and numbness.

When will I see the final results of the surgery?

The results of surgery will be immediately apparent and will continue to improve postoperatively as the swelling decreases.  It should be realized that minor amounts of swelling may persist up to 12 months after the surgery.  Final results in contour as well as scar quality will take at least 6 to 12 months after surgery.