An arm lift is a cosmetic surgical procedure to improve the appearance of the under portion of your upper arms.
An arm lift poses various risks, including:
- Scarring. Incision scars from an arm lift are permanent, but are typically placed in areas that aren’t easily visible. Rarely, incisions can result in raised, red scars. Injections of a corticosteroid medication or other treatments might be used to improve the appearance of scars.
- Asymmetry in the shape of your arms. This could occur as a result of changes during the healing process. Also, while the surgeon will try to make your arms look as symmetrical as possible, perfect symmetry isn’t possible.
- Changes in skin sensation. During an arm lift, the repositioning of your arm tissues can affect superficial sensory nerves. You’ll likely feel some temporary numbness.
- Problems with stitches. Stitches used to secure the arm’s new shape might work their way to the surface of the skin and need to be removed. This can cause inflammation of the affected skin. As a result, you might need additional surgery.
Like any other type of major surgery, an arm lift poses a risk of bleeding, infection and an adverse reaction to anesthesia.
The procedure lasts two to three hours.
Arm lifts are usually performed in the operating room under general anesthesia.
How you prepare
Initially, you’ll talk to a plastic surgeon about an arm lift. During your first visit, your plastic surgeon will likely:
- Review your medical history. Be prepared to answer questions about current and past medical conditions. Talk about any medications you’re taking or have taken recently, including over-the-counter drugs and herbal supplements, as well as any surgeries you’ve had.
- Do a physical exam. To determine your treatment options, the doctor will examine the undersides of your upper arms. The doctor will also take pictures of your arms for your medical record.
- Discuss your expectations. Explain why you want an arm lift and what you’re hoping for in terms of appearance after the procedure. Make sure you understand the benefits and risks, including scarring.
- If you use tobacco, stop. Smoking decreases blood flow in the skin and can slow the healing process. If you smoke, your doctor will advise you to stop smoking before surgery and during recovery. Some doctors won’t perform the surgery if you still smoke because the risk of complications is higher.
Before the procedure
- Avoid certain medications. You’ll likely need to avoid taking aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs and herbal supplements, which can increase bleeding.
- Arrange for help during recovery. Make plans for someone to drive you home after surgery and stay with you as you begin to recover.
After the procedure
In the first few days after an arm lift:
- Avoid lifting your arms above shoulder level for three to four weeks.
- Avoid physical and athletic activities with your arms that might stretch the incisions for four to eight weeks after surgery.
- Take pain medication as needed and use topical or oral antibiotics as directed to prevent wound infections.
Talk to your doctor about when — or if — your stitches will be removed. Some stitches dissolve on their own. Others must be removed in the doctor’s office in the weeks after the procedure.
After an arm lift, contact your doctor immediately if you have:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pains
- An irregular heartbeat
- Redness of the skin and a fever