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Arm Lift Recovery Extended Brachioplasty with Lipo - Pasadena, CA

I had an extended brachioplasty, this is my...

I had an extended brachioplasty, this is my experience of the first two weeks.... Hope it will be helpful to anyone out there getting ready for or considering their own armlift. I needed a little more time off and help with daily activities than I thought I would, even though everything went well....hope this helps you plan your surgery recuperation!

The surgery itself went fine, I left the hospital with tape and gauze over the incisions. My doctor did not use ace badges or compression for the first two days. I could already tell, even though swollen and bruised, that I will be happy with the new slim shape and contour. Whoo hoo!

Now for the fun part: As expected, very very sore. Doctor said I would be able to brush my own teeth and should have enough range of motion for basic self care. Mmmmm No.. No way. Not for two days. The first 2 days I was not able to move my arms or hands upward more than a few inches. I am in good shape, good health, no whiner, but my arms were tight, swollen, sore as hell to move. I looked like a Tyrannosaurus with limp-wrist arms dangling in front of me. Or the robot from Lost in Space. I could not reach enough to brush my own teeth, pull up my panties or sweatpants, put on glasses.....

Most limiting and irksome was dressing myself--- I needed help for 10 days to put sleeves on! Even with shirts that button up the front. I just couldn't twist my shoulder or lift and turn arms enough to reach and pull up the second sleeve. Doh! Was humbling, but I would recommend practicing first, or having someone around to dress you if you must return to work, don't assume you'll be fine alone and risk hurting yourself.
Again, I have an incision extending into armpit and down side chest wall, so if your incision stops at armpit, you may be a little more comfortable, but I really needed full help for 48 - 72 hours. Hubby was angel, so everything was fine, but please schedule to have someone there to help you dress, shower, etc,

Get a bathrobe or pajama tops with large sleeve openings for first week to 10 days. A narrow sleeve was a no-go for me.

Also, I needed someone to wrap a towel around me and dry my hair after a shower. I couldn't reach back of head to towel, comb, etc. until Day 9 or 10.

Pain- I took one Vicodin every 4 hours the first 48 hours. Set my alarm to ring every 4 hours during night so i could make sure to reposition arms a bit, take pain med....this helped with swelling and stiffness to make sure i adjusted my sleeping position a bit and not get stuck in one position all night.

My bruises were gone by day 7, but armpit, reaching, still hurts. I take half a Vicodin or just Tylenol randomly now, 12 days out. Sore from overuse, showering, reaching.

Also not a big deal but unexpected is a pain in my FOREARM, along the inner side, running from elbow to wrist..it feels much like a pulled tendon. It worried me but I read that its common to have it and it subsides within 3-6 months. Hard to straighten arm because of it, so gently stretching whenever I can.

HELPFUL THINGS to know and get before surgery:

STRAWS - holding a full glass or cup was heavy, straws help so you don't have to reach for and lift drinks.

PILLOWS - sleep with one under each arm and two behind head. Helps to elevate arms as often as possible to reduce swelling. Keep pillows in lap while sitting during day, rest arms on them.

COMPRESSION- Child size girls tights/stockings for sleeves. Work perfect! i cut off the toes, cut them in half and used each leg for a sleeve. so comfy, and small enough to give gentle, but snug support. Really helps. Put a non-stick gauze pad over incisions then pull the stocking sleeves up over it. Feels great.

I did buy two different high-end compression vests with sleeves, expensive nice garments, but I couldn't contort into them yet, plus the sleeves were too short--- may use them later, but the hosiery/tights idea works so great now. And only $3.00.

DRIVING- I would suggest 2 weeks for driving. On day 12 now, I feel like I will be able to drive in a few days, but I could not turn the wheel quickly or feel safe driving up until now. Had hubby drive me to doctor follow up visit on Day 7 and just riding in car, bumps in road, made me pretty sore and achy rest of the day. Trying to be patient :)

RASH- I had a skin reaction and rash to the surgical prep/iodine solution they used. Also to the tape glue. Ask your doctor to have them wash the prep solution off your skin at the end of surgery. Or thoroughly wash your chest and abdomen yourself when you get home. A lot of people seem to get rashes which could have been prevented if they just washed the solution off, my doctor said later. He recommended Benadryl and Caladryl lotion, which did help the itching and rash. I am still a bit itchy 12 days later, sucks, hope you fare better:)

ANXIETY - it's normal to feel lonely or sad in the second week after surgery. I feel like a useless blob but I know the surgery was worth it and am really happy I did it. Picturing myself dancing in spaghetti strap dresses next summer:)

PROTEIN- I double up protein, it's supposed to really help healing. i use whey drink powder, easy to digest and easy to make. Good to start this 2 weeks before surgery.

Will post more later, on the healing, progress, etc., but hope this helps you plan your surgery schedule, care, and be more comfortable in recovery:)

3 Weeks Update

Feeling good, so much more mobile the last week... By Day 14, I could feel all the swelling was down--- my shoulders and arms have a lot more range of motion, easier to shower, reach to dry hair. Felt so good on Day 16, I cleaned up a bit, did some laundry, drove to doctor, met a friend. On Day 10 I had been a teary miserable blob, but body healed so much after the two week mark.

Rash gone, a few faint marks from it, but no more itching....incisions are nicely closed in some areas, still slightly open, tiny bit oozing in others. Some stinging, but not painful really. Worse in the evening, but ok during day.

I realized I forgot to write here that I also had arm LIPO at the same time as the arm lift! I am sure a lot my lack of mobility early on was because of it, additional swelling and muscle pain. In hindsight, I might suggest to do the lipo first, wait for it to heal, and then do the arm lift if you have a limited amount of time off. I have read where some surgeons recommend that. With less swelling and trauma, i might have been able to drive or get back to work a few days earlier. Honestly, didn't matter that much for me, because I work from home, so I was able to schedule a full 2 weeks off.

I also had some blistering from the medical tape they used to secure my bandages right after surgery. Got the tape off by wetting tape strips and slowly, gently puling them off. Whew. Much better.

Also, I had been using Neosporin on incisions, under instructions to keep them moist and covered, but doctor told me to use Polysporin instead. My incisions were red and irritated with Neosporin, but immediately got better when I switched to polysporin. Doc said is pretty common people have reaction to neomycin.

I swear, the actual surgery wasn't the hard part---- the only complications I had we're from the tape, glue, wet prep, neosporin, chemicals! I hope doctors come up with some better solutions and tools for themselves considering these chemcial reactions in patients are pretty common.

Getting mobility back has made everyday life much more pleasant. i am kind of digging the time off, but was bummed to miss two christmas parties. i didn't tell more than a handful of people i was having the surgery. i am going to have to tell the relatives i visit at christmas that i have a pulled neck or shoulder, or something. i won't be able to lift luggage or heavy dishes or play with kids or anything for another 3 weeks.

Am still doing protein shakes and veggie juicing and being really diligent with vitamins. I bought a Nutribullet machine, it's sooooooo easy and awesome, much healthier and better then my old juicer and all the work cleaning. I actually USE the Nutribullet everyday, I couldn't be bothered with the old juicer.

I am getting my sutures out later today, thank god, they are super tender in the armpit, so I will update after that! Hope you all are well:)
Los Angeles Plastic Surgeon

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Comments (5)

Appreciate your story. I had armlipo and now my arms are a hot mess. Terrified of the pain because i found the arm lipo brutal. Thanks for sharing.
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You had lipo recently? And are considering arm lift next? Honestly, the lipo bruising and muscle soreness is worse than the incision pain. You are probably through the worst of it. Happy to answer any questions.
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Had the lipo 4 yrs ago and it was beyond BAD. Took months for those nerves to settle down. I'm totally freaked out because I need this surgery but those old memories won't fade. I also need to find a PS who does this somewhat regularly. Most have never done it, and I live in NY!
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Yes, i can feel the nerves coming back to life and it isn't super fun:) I was actually considering a Dr. Sterry in NY, from reading his website, i never met with him, so i can't say definitively. The PS doctors who specialize in post weight loss tend to do more arm surgeries. I am only 3 weeks out, but I think this recovery is worse in short term than long, at least that is my hope. Use arms for everything in life!
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Love to dance, lots of great advise. Glad to hear your healing well and getting better range of motion. I had arm lift 7 months ago. I used men's tube socks on my arms. Cut the toes off and hem the edge. Worked very well
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