Arm lift (or brachioplasty) or thigh lift surgeries reduce excess skin and tighten underlying tissues to make the upper arm or inner thigh become more firm and well shaped. Due to aging or loss of large amount of weight, the upper arm skin and the inner thigh skin becomes loose and hangs down coming in the way of clothing and giving a sagging appearance when bare.
The reference to upper arm lift surgery may be found back in 1950s in South African medical literature and since then the procedure has evolved and is now practiced all over the world.
It is reported that arm lift is one of the top surgeries sought by people after achieving massive weight loss through bariatric surgery. Thigh lift, abdominoplasty, and leg lifts are also common.
The skin in most cases becomes in-elastic and exercise or dieting cannot help in such conditions. A person having these conditions may opt for a lift of the arms or legs.
Surgical procedure – The procedures are performed by first performing liposuction of the arms or inner thighs, then pulling and tightening the underlying tissues to see what excess skin should be removed, excising the extra skin, and then closing the incision. As a result, one receives a scar line which remains mostly invisible on the inside or the back of one’s upper arm or inner thigh areas.
Thigh lift or arm lift procedures are performed at our surgicenter as an outpatient surgery clinic under general deep IV sedation anesthesia combined with a local anesthetic. Sometimes just local anesthesia is necessary without putting the patient asleep, but this should be discussed by the surgeon and discussion with the patient depending on the patient’s existing health condition and other characteristics.
Liposuction – All arm/thigh lifts require a certain amount of liposuction to contour the arm fat in a uniform fashion. In addition, this allows excision of the excess tissue in a safer manner and reducing the risk of nerve injury to the deeper tissues.
Incision – The location and length of the incision depends on the amount of loose skin present and the extent requiring the lift as determined by the surgeon. The incisions are mostly done on the inside or the underside of the arm or inner thigh so they are minimal exposed. In the case of a full arm lift, it may extend from the armpit to the elbow. With thigh lift, it may extend from the groin to the knee.
Tightening loose tissues and suturing the skin- After the excess skin is measured and then cut, the skin is then draped around the tightened underlying tissues and the incisions are closed using a mutiple layer technique and sometimes needing removable staples to reinforce the incisions. Drains are placed for adequate drainage of excess fluids from the area.
Dressings are applied on the incisions and the patient may be given a compression garment to wear to help the skin and underlying layers to adhere and in controlling swelling.
The surgery takes about one to two hours. The cost of the surgery includes the surgeon’s fee, anesthesia, surgicenter charges, medications, ancillary supplies and miscillaneous expenses including cost of compression garments or bandages.
The costs vary from one geographical location to another in America and the amount of work that has to be performed. Some require more time than others depending on the amount of fat and tissue that may need to be removed.
Recovery – There will be some swelling and pain for a few days. The surgeon will prescribe antibiotics to prevent infection and medications to reduce pain, as well as recommend steps to quicken recovery. The patient must not expose the arm or leg incisions to any kind of strain or excessive movement for about two to six weeks. One should try to keep the extremities in an elevated position when at rest, but it is recommended to walk and do some activity right after the surgery and gradually increase it over the following weeks.
On of the potential complications after these procedures are blood clots, which occur primarily because the patient is not moving regularly after the procedure. Thus, if the patient experiences such symptoms as shortness of breath, chest pain, irregular heart beat and others, the surgeon must be contacted and it may be necessary to have urgent medical attention.
Most patients can return to work between one to three weeks after the procedure. The results are visible right after the procedure and it will be more pronounced after the swelling subsides.
Risks – Like in other similar surgical procedures there are risks for the patient such as bleeding, infection, fluid accumulation, anesthesia risks, damage to underlying layers, poor wound healing, numbness or lack of sensation in the operated area, asymmetry in the two arms and others. These are explained to the patient before the patient gives consent. Recommendation are made for steps to be taken by the patient to minimize the risks both pre-operative and post-operative. The patient must follow the surgeon’s advice fully.