Arm flab is an inevitable part of aging. Every doctor will tell you that your skin loses elasticity with age resulting in wrinkles, sagging skin, and flabby arms. This flabbiness occurs because of a syndrome called sarcopenia, which is age-related muscle loss combined with the loss of elasticity in your skin. The worse your skin elasticity, the looser your arms will appear and one of the factors that affect elasticity is your skin’s thickness. If you have thin skin, it won’t hold the tissue under it quite as firmly, making you appear to be less toned. As you age, your skin is less likely to re-tighten after fat or muscle loss.
Loose upper arm skin is sometimes related to weight loss. Many times after you lose weight, your skin fails to tighten and as a result it sags. If you were ever overweight, you more than likely developed heavy upper arms and to accommodate the increased volume of your upper arms, your skin stretched. When this occurs, your skin often fails to tighten and instead will sag and become flabby. Upper arm excess in a massive weight loss patient usually crosses the armpit and involves loose skin that extends onto the chest region. Arm exercises can only help if the sagging is minor but in other cases, the only way to fix the problem is by having a brachioplasty operation.
Since safety is our number one concern, before your brachioplasty surgery you must be in good health. We require that you undergo a physical exam and have routine lab work done by your personal physician. If you do not have a doctor, we will recommend one since we do not provide this service. All of your pre-op paperwork will need to be in our office two weeks prior to your procedure. Dr. Moelleken must be aware of pre-existing medical conditions, medical history, and any medications you are currently taking. He may also require that you adjust, cease, or begin taking certain medications in the week or two prior to your surgery. Some of these may include avoiding aspirin, aspirin products, anti-inflammatory drugs, herbal supplements, etc. A complete list will be provided to you along with thorough instructions during your initial consultation. If you smoke, you will be asked to stop two weeks prior and two weeks after your procedure since smoking impedes your healing process and is associated with complications.
The three most common types of brachioplasty performed include:
The traditional brachioplasty is performed on people who have lost massive amounts of weight (45 kg or more) and have excess arm skin. During this procedure, Dr. Moelleken will mark your arm zones where the excess tissue is going to be removed and you will be sedated using general anesthesia. Dr. Moelleken will perform an incision from your armpit to your elbow removing the excess skin before stitching the incision and covering it with bandages. Usually the operation lasts for approximately one to two hours and you should be allowed to go home a few hours post op. The scar from this surgery will run from your armpit to your elbow.
The extended Brachioplasty is performed on people who have lost massive amounts of weight (45 kg or more) and have excess skin running from the arm down to the outer upper chest. This surgery is used when it is determined that a traditional brachioplasty procedure would be unable to remove the excess tissue and produce a good outcome. Dr. Moelleken will mark your arms and outer upper chest where excess tissue will be removed. You will be sedated with general anesthesia and Dr. Moelleken will create an incision from your elbow down to your outer upper chest. After removing your excess skin tissue, he will stitch, cover, and bandage the incision site. This operation typically lasts one to two hours and like the traditional brachioplasty, you will be able to resume your normal activities within four to six weeks. This procedure will leave a permanent scar from your elbow up to your outer upper chest.
The Minimal Incision Brachioplasty is performed on men and women that have a small amount of excess skin and are usually quite fit. Dr. Moelleken will mark the place where your skin should be removed and you will be sedated under general anesthesia. He will then create an incision around your upper armpit and remove the excess before pulling the skin downwards in order to increase tightness. The incision site will then be stitched and bandaged and this operation typically lasts approximately one hour. This surgery will result in a permanent, but small scar in your armpit.
Regardless of the type of arm lift procedure you choose, after your surgery your arms will either be wrapped or placed in an elastic sleeve in order to reduce swelling. Most patients can return to their non-strenuous routine after two weeks but strenuous work or exercise should not be resumed for four to six weeks. It is important that your incisions are not subjected to excessive force, abrasion, or motion during your healing time. Any swelling or bruising will gradually disappear over three to four weeks and should be completely gone in approximately three months. Your scars will begin to fade after six months depending on your type of skin and the operation you had.
As with all surgery, it is important to understand that these guidelines can vary widely based on your personal health, the techniques used, and other variable factors surrounding your surgery. Risks and complications are rare if you follow all instructions but some have been reported including pain, temporary loss of skin sensation, swelling, bleeding, and fluid accumulation. Pain and discomfort is usually manageable with medicine but any severe pain should be reported to Dr. Moelleken.