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Hi, I'm Dr. Adam Oppenheimer and I'm a plastic surgeon in Melbourne, Florida. This is a question about arm pain following tummy-tucks. Any time you're positioned in the operating room, as a surgeon, I make every effort to make sure all pressure points are padded and that the arm position is in the most safe position possible.

When I do my breast augmentation surgeries, I actually place the hands on the hips because I feel that that gives a more natural perspective of the position of the breasts when sitting upright, when we examine the breasts after putting in the implants, as opposed to the arms out to the sides which actually can stretch the breast skin.

When I do a tummy-tuck, however, I do position the arms out away from the sides and I make sure they're not going past 90 degrees. When you're past 90 degrees or further up above your head for longer periods of time, you actually can stretch some of the nerves in the brachial plexus, and that can cause numbness in certain parts of your hand, particularly the small and ring finger can be involved. That's also true if your hand is pronated instead of supinated on the operating room table, and if you're resting on the ulnar nerve here instead of having your arm turned upright, then you can actually have the same kind of problem.

Fortunately this problem is almost always temporary. It's called neuropraxia. It's the doctor word for mild injury to the nerve and it should go away over the course of several weeks.

Hopefully this helps. Thanks so much for watching.

Why Do I Have Arm Pain After My Tummy Tuck?

Dr. Adam Oppenheimer discusses key aspects of positioning for plastic surgery, which, if done incorrectly, could lead to temporary nerve damage.

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Comments (1)

Excellent commentary. Very helpful. In PT, it is occasionally called Saturday Night Palsy caused (unfortunately) by folks falling asleep while drunk and therefore not MOVING the way we do when in normal non-drugged sleep. I don't know how many hours one must remain in a position of pressure between nerve and bone, but it can be permanent in people who spend many hours in a poor position. But I understand it is much more likely to be transitory following any surgery as all team members are very conscious of the risks. Thanks for such a clear description!! Your videos are so helpful, Dr Oppenheimer! Thanks, Mag PT
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