Arm Lift Recovery

I'm thinking about an arm lift and just wondering what to expect. What's the recovery like after the arm lift? What can I expect in terms of downtime and scarring?

Doctor Answers 43

Arm Lift Recovery

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Hello and great question. Arms lifts are performed as an outpatient surgery (you go home after surgery). The total time you are in the operative room (including anesthesia, prep time, and surgery) is 2 to 2.5 hours.
Arm lifts are a great procedure and significantly improve the “hanging” skin and “tighten” the skin of the arm. The easiest way to think of this procedure is that we (the surgeons) are tailoring the skin on your arm. If you have a shirt that has excess fabric and you want the excess fabric taken in; then you would need to place a seam (also known as a dart) to do it. An arm lift has the same requirements. In order to take in the excess skin and tighten the remaining skin a incision or scar (or you can think of it as a seam) needs to be placed along the arm.
How long does the incision or scar need to be? The incision or scar needs to be as long as the length of the excess skin. This can be halfway down the arm for some individuals or the full length of the arm for others. I think this is extremely important; because some individuals will show before and after photos at angles that do not adequately show the scar. Revising the analogy to a tailor: if you went to the tailor and said you wanted the excess fabric taken in on a shirt, but then you told the tailor you didn’t want a seam opened up or a dart made on the shirt then the tailor would say it is not possible.
How noticeable will the scar be? Healing or scarring is an extremely individual process. If you are a person that makes thick or red scars, then there are different treatments we can do to minimize the scars.
What is downtime? The typical downtime is 1 to 2 weeks. During this time, you will have a compressive garment helping to decrease your swelling and further contour your arm. I like the compressive garment to worn at all times (except when showering) for 4 to 6 weeks.
I hope that helps. Best of Luck!

Arm lift recovery

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I often explain recovery in stages:
1)  Discomfort - you may have a several days of discomfort that requires narcotic support.  This can be minimized with the use of pain pumps or injectable numbing medications like Exparel
2)  Swelling/bruising - this may linger for 2-3 weeks with each week showing less swelling/bruising than the previous week
3)  Activity restriction - you should refrain from stretching the arms, or any heavy lifting/exercise for 6 weeks.

Brachioplasty (arm lift) recovery

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The recovery for an arm lift (brachioplasty) is different for each patient.In my practice I tell patients they will be in a compressive dressing for about 2 days.There are dissolvable sutures, but we typically put in a few “anchor” sutures about every 2-3 inches that come out at 10 days.There are steri-strips on the incisions that should not be removed for 5-7 days.We ask patients to avoid heavy lifting for about 10-14 days.After the incision is healed, patients can resume normal activities.It is about 4-6 weeks before patients are feeling 100% “normal” again.

Arm Lift Recovery

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What I tell my patients always is if you follow the indications properly especially the first week everything should go smoothly from there. The indications I recommend to my patients to follow are , to limit yourself to minimal activities at least for 10 days and no lifting heavy object for a month. As for driving approximately 10 days also. The use of the bandages or garment is very important this is to prevent serious complications like hematomas, seromas inflammatory liquid that could accumulate. Some stitches will be removed in 10 days after the surgery, others are not necessary. The scar tends to diminish in 6 months. I recommend this surgery it has a amazing results and patients leave very satisfied. 

Hope this helps !


Luis Suarez, MD
Mexico Plastic Surgeon
4.3 out of 5 stars 61 reviews

Arm Lift Recovery

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This is a very satifying surgery and has a short recovery for the gains you get.  Most of my patients need about 2-3 days of recovery and are back at work as long as it is a desk job at about 3-5 days.

Arm movement at the shoulder is restricted for the first 4 weeks.  After that there are no restrictions.

Good luck.

Farbod Esmailian, MD
Orange County Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 88 reviews

Arm lift recovery expectations

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Arm lift procedures should be tailored to your unique needs and desires. Patients with less contour issues may only require liposuction with laser therapy or armpit incisions to reduce skin laxity. The downtime and recovery for those procedures is minimal, most patients are back to work in several days and resume normal activity in 10-14 days. More extensive soft tissue laxity requires a formal brachioplasty, typically with placement of operative drains and minimizing heavy activity for several weeks while the tissue heals. The scar from this procedure usually heals nicely but can be prominent in some individuals. Postoperative scar therapy can help to minimize scar formation. Be sure to discuss your concerns with your board certified plastic surgeon.

Andrew Goldberg, MD
Fairfax Plastic Surgeon

Recovery of an arm lift (brachioplasty)

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The recovery is proportional to the extent of the surgery.  If you have had major weight loss and are having a brachioplasty with an elbow to armpit incision, then you need more time.  In our practice, arm lift surgery is not one that patients qualify as painful, and most patients are off pain medicine within 5 days. The scar is long, and the final result can be somewhat unpredictable. The scar goes from armpit to elbow and we aim to place it in a relatively inconspicuous place.  Most patients feel it is a good trade off to remove all the excess skin, even when the scar is somewhat thick.   How much time off you need depends entirely on your line of work. Consulting in person with a board-certified plastic surgeon with post-weight loss plastic surgery will give you the best answers. 

The link below shows a fully healed brachioplasty (arm lift). 

Heather J. Furnas, MD
Santa Rosa Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 33 reviews

Arm lift recovery and scars

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During the post-op recovery period you'll likely be given specific written insutructions depending on your specific case but arm lift surgery is generally well tolerated. You'll need someone to drive you home after surgery and someone to stay with you for the first 48 hours. You'll be fairly sore for the first few days and will need bed rest with your arms elevated, avoiding movement as much as possible for the first 10 to 14 days following surgery.

Your plastic surgeon will follow your recovery closely and recommend the level of activity you may resume at the appropriate time, but be prepared to have limited movement of your arms for up to 4 weeks. Most patients are able to resume all regular activities between 4 and 6 weeks after undergoing brachioplasty.

During your initial consultation your board certified plastic surgeon will evaluate your specific needs to help you determine which type of arm lift is best suited for you. The incision length and pattern will depend upon the amount and location of excess skin to be removed to give you the best looking results. As such, the scarring will depend on your specific procedure details. Common types of arm lifts include:

* Invisible Arm Lift - removes excess skin at the crease of axilla (armpit) and results in a short scar (this is usually combined with liposuction of the upper arm.

* Traditional Arm Lift - removes excess skin and fatty tissue, the incision is placed on the inside of the arm or on the back of the arm and extends to just above the elbow.

* Extended Arm Lift (or Thoracic Lift) - removes excess skin and fatty tissue that is on the side of the chest, axilla, and upper arm. The incision is like the traditional arm lift except that it is extended from the arm all the way down the side of the chest.

Ricardo L. Rodriguez, MD
Baltimore Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 98 reviews

Arm lift recovery

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You'll expect swelling on your arms, tight sensation, bruisings , some pain, very manageable .

And basically you can come back to the gym after 6 weeks.


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Usually the arm lift is done also with liposuction.  Normally a tight garment for pressure is use also. The incision is closed in at least 2 layers,  since the arms are constantly under motion,  the scar despite being closed without tension,  can sometimes change and be either sligthly wide or raised.  Initially it is also red and as it matures, may transform into a white fine line.  Most patients explain the pain as mostly discomfort.  If your job is not physical (desk job) and depending on your pain tolerance; patients may return to work in as little as 3 to 5 days. The garment usually is used for 4 weeks. Hope this helps.

Roberto Gonzalez, MD
Scottsdale Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 6 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.