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Upper Arm Lift

Upper arm skin can become loose and flabby as we age and gain weight. An arm lift, also known as a brachioplasty, removes loose skin and excess fat deposits from the upper arms. In some cases, an upper arm lift performed in Washington, D.C. at West End Plastic Surgery can be combined with VASERlipo™ liposuction. Working with Dr. Paul G. Ruff IV and his staff, you can help determine the appropriate treatment plan to get the results you want.

If you live in the Washington, D.C. area and are considering an upper arm lift, request a consultation online to meet with Dr. Ruff, or call our office at (202) 785-4187 and a member of our knowledgeable staff can schedule a consultation.

Paul G. Ruff IV,
M.D. F.A.C.S.

Personalized, compassionate patient care is the foundation of West End Plastic Surgery's philosophy. Our board-certified surgeon, Dr. Paul G. Ruff IV embraces innovative techniques to ensure our patients get the best treatments available.

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Are You a Good Candidate for an Upper Arm Lift?

If through age, weight gain, or genetic predisposition, your upper arm area has excess or sagging skin that does not respond to diet or exercise, you may be an ideal candidate for an upper arm lift.

Meeting With Dr. Ruff

Prior to scheduling your upper arm lift, you will meet at length with Dr. Ruff and his staff at West End Plastic Surgery to determine whether the procedure is right for you and to answer any questions you may have. At this initial consultation, your upper arm region will be evaluated, you will discuss how you want this area to look after surgery, and it will be determined whether liposuction will also be used to enhance the appearance of your upper arms.

Dr. Ruff and his staff at West End Plastic Surgery will:

  • Review the various upper arm lift options with you
  • Clearly discuss the potential risks of the procedure
  • Outline in detail how the surgery is performed and what you can expect before, during, and after the procedure
  • Provide detailed cost and payment information
  • Answer all your questions

You will be asked to provide:

  • Details about your medical history
  • A list of all medications you currently take, including over-the-counter medications such as aspirin, vitamins, and herbal supplements
  • Information regarding your tobacco and alcohol use

How the Procedure Is Performed

Your upper arm lift procedure will be performed in our state-of-the-art surgical suite or at one of the area hospitals where Dr. Ruff operates.

The procedure is usually performed using general anesthesia and takes from 1 to 5 hours to complete depending on the extent of the procedure.

To start the surgery, the doctor makes an incision starting near the elbow, along the back of the arm, and into the armpit. Though the incision may be lengthy, it is placed in as inconspicuous a position as possible, toward the back of the inner arm. The exact placement of your incision will be discussed with you during your initial consultation.

Once the incision is made, the doctor removes excess fat and trims away unwanted skin. Stitches are then used to close the incision. Once the incision is stitched, gauze dressings and tape are applied over the surgical area and an elastic sleeve is placed over your arm to promote healing. These dressings and the elastic sleeve are to be worn at all times for several days after your surgery.

What To Expect After Your Surgery

Activity When
Shower or Bath 2 to 3 Days After Surgery
Back to Work 1 to 3 Weeks After Surgery
Driving As Soon as You Feel Comfortable
Strenuous Activity 6 Weeks After Surgery
Fading of Scars Several Months to 1 Year

Immediately After Your Surgery

In most cases, upper arm lift surgery is performed on an outpatient basis. You usually go home shortly after your surgery is completed. You may be sleepy from the anesthesia and the area around your incisions will be sore, so you will need to have someone drive you home. Once you go home, you may want to have someone stay with you for the first few days because you may experience mild to moderate discomfort. Pain medication will be prescribed to alleviate as much post-surgery pain as possible.

The First 24 to 48 Hours After Your Surgery

During the first 24 to 48 hours after your procedure, you will feel tired from the anesthesia and may experience discomfort in the area of the surgery. Pain medication will alleviate much of the discomfort. There will be moderate swelling and bruising in the area of the incisions; this will gradually disappear within the first month after your surgery. Your discomfort level will improve rapidly after the first 2 days.

You must wear the elastic sleeves placed over your arms after surgery at all times for the first several days after surgery. These sleeves help the healing process and will be removed at your postoperative visit with Dr. Ruff 5 to 7 days after the surgery.

Small amounts of bleeding and oozing are normal in the first few days after surgery. If you see more than just a slow staining of the gauze dressing, apply pressure to the area with your hand for 20 to 30 minutes to stop the bleeding. If this does not stop the bleeding, call West End Plastic Surgery. Heavy bleeding is rare, but if it does happen, call right away.

The First 2 Weeks After Surgery

You will notice a marked improvement in your discomfort level during the first few weeks after your surgery:

  • You can shower or bathe as soon as Dr. Ruff removes the elastic sleeves placed over your arms after surgery. Treat the surgical tape placed over your incision like your own skin — bathe and dry off normally. If the strips become loose or curl on the ends, you can snip the ends off or remove them completely.
  • You can resume driving as soon as you experience no pain.
  • Your stitches will be removed within 2 to 4 weeks of your surgery.

Resuming Your Normal Routine

Everyone heals at different rates, and you are the best judge of when you are ready for certain activities, but the following are general guidelines:

  • Be careful and gentle while using your arms for the first 3 to 4 weeks after surgery. The doctor will tell you when you can resume using your arms as you did prior to your surgery.
  • Swelling and bruising gradually disappear within 3 to 4 weeks of surgery.
  • You can most likely return to work or school within 2 to 3 weeks after your procedure. If your work is strenuous, plan to stay home from work for 4 to 8 weeks, depending on how you heal and the type of work you do.
  • You can most likely return to your physical exercise program within 6 weeks of your arm lift. Our patients are encouraged to plan an exercise program and discuss it with the staff prior to resuming exercise.
  • The scars caused by the incision should be protected from sunlight for at least a year after surgery.

Things to Be Aware of After Your Surgery

  • Initially, your surgical scars will appear red or dark pink and very narrow. Your scars may widen over time; this is something that cannot be predicted or controlled. Your surgical scars will fade in 6 to 24 months, depending on your skin tone and color.
  • Healing does not always occur evenly from side to side and your arms may heal at different rates and in different ways.
  • On rare occasions, surgical interference with the body's lymph drainage system may require use of a compression "stocking" for the upper arm after surgery. This problem is minor and does not last long.
  • You may experience a loss of sensation or numbness in the area of your surgery. This is entirely normal and may take several months to disappear.
  • The skin in the area of your surgery may appear shiny due to swelling. Within a few weeks, the swelling will disappear and the skin will return to a normal appearance.
  • You may notice a tingling sensation in the surgical area. This feeling is a result of the healing of the nerves in the area and will go away within several months of your procedure.
  • All swelling in the area of your surgery will be gone within 3 to 6 months.

What Are Possible Side Effects or Risks?

Like all surgical procedures, there are risks associated with upper arm lifts. During your initial consultation with Dr. Ruff and his staff of West End Plastic Surgery, your individual risks will be assessed and discussed. As with any surgery, you can help reduce the risks by closely following the pre- and post-surgery instructions provided to you. Dr. Ruff and his staff of the practice will be with you every step of the way to ensure a safe and pleasing outcome.

Most likely risks include the following:

  • Infection
  • Loss of sensation
  • Damage to sensory nerves
  • Areas of wrinkling or slight depression in the skin
  • Scarring

How Long Will the Results of Your Upper Arm Lift Last?

Upper arm lift surgery removes excess fat and tightens and smoothes the skin in this area. These results generally last 5 to 10 years; however, large weight gain or pregnancy will affect how long the results last.

Questions You May Have

Are there other procedures that could be done along with upper arm surgery to enhance the overall appearance of my arms?

Liposuction is sometimes used in addition to upper arm lift surgery to enhance the overall appearance of this area. Dr. Ruff is one of the first specialists in the Washington, D.C. area certified to perform VASERlipo™, a much gentler form of liposuction that can be used to remove fat in the upper arm region.

Will my insurance coverage pay for my upper arm lift?

Upper arm lift surgery is considered cosmetic surgery and, therefore, is not covered by insurance. You are responsible for the full payment of the procedure. Cost and payment information will be fully discussed with you during your initial consultation.

Are there alternatives to upper arm lift?

Options for improving the look of your upper arms include weight loss and exercise, especially toning exercises. VASERlipo may also greatly enhance the look of your upper arms.

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West End Plastic Surgery 2440 M Street Northwest #200
Washington, District of Columbia 20037 (202) 785-4187 Monday–Friday: 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Get Directions
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