The effects of aging skin are familiar to all of us. Over time, the skin changes in four ways: it loses thickness, loses elasticity, loses adherence to the underlying tissue, and is affected by gravity. At the same time, the deep layers of fat, muscle, and bone, thin as well. The amount of elastic tissue and collagen present in the dermis (the deep layer of the skin) also decreases. One area where these changes are especially apparent is the upper arm. Everyone wants to look as youthful as possible and one of the ways to acquire this is by having shapely, contoured arms. If you have loose or excess skin on your upper arms, you may be a candidate for an arm lift. An arm lift is a form of cosmetic surgery that is not meant for weight loss purposes, but can greatly help to improve the condition of the arms, especially as a person ages. The final result of arm lift surgery is skin that is smooth, contoured, and very healthy looking.
A plastic surgeon can best help you decide if you are a good candidate for arm lift surgery. Sometimes liposuction is a more appropriate choice. An arm lift is best if there is a lot of loose skin present on the upper arm. Liposuction is better if there is a lot of fat on the upper arm, but the skin is relatively tight.
Surgery: The majority of patients are most comfortable with a general anesthesia for this procedure. The surgery begins by marking the area of excess skin, with the patient either standing or sitting. The anesthesia is then administered. Incisions are made on the inner and under surface of the arm - the pattern of skin removal usually follows an elliptical or triangular shape. Often some fat is suctioned at the same time. The surgical opening may run from the armpit to as low as the elbow.
While the excess skin and fat is removed, the remaining skin is stretched and sutured into place. Occasionally a drain is used to lead excess fluids from the site of incision, allowing the skin to better adhere to the tissue beneath. The incisions are then bandaged.
Recovery: You may experience moderate pain after this procedure. Pain medication will be prescribed and can help make you comfortable. After a few days, acetaminophen and/or ibuprofen may be all that you require. But avoid aspirin; it can increase the risk of bleeding and bruising. After the procedure you will feel groggy. Your arm will be placed in a special compression garment to help the newly-sculpted skin adhere to the tissue underneath. You will probably have several layers of stitches on the upper arm, possibly with a drain inserted to help the skin adhere to the underlying tissue. Some of the stitches will be absorbable, and some may have to be removed during a follow-up visit. After a brief stay in the recovery room, you will be allowed to go home. For the first week following surgery, you will have to avoid strenuous activity, including bending and lifting. You will be able to shower on the third day after surgery.
While each person’s recovery is unique, the recovery period after an arm lift generally lasts one to two weeks. You will probably be able to return to work in one week and resume exercise within two weeks. Strenuous workouts and contact sports can be engaged in after about four weeks.