Arm Liposuction or Brachioplasty? (photo)

I am a 26 year old, 5'10, 148 lb female. I tend to stay at this weight, fluctuating anywhere between 140 and 150. I may get pregnant in the future. I have a swimmers body and my arms make me look larger than I am. I enjoy lifting weights and cardio, but no matter how toned my arms get or how much weight I lose, the arms are still big. I have good skin, I do not want scars, but I would like to make my arms more attractive. Any suggestions for appropriate procedures for me?

Doctor Answers 21

Liposuction versus brachioplasty

Not wanting scars and not having loose extra skin makes brachioplasty not a good option for you. While brachioplasty removes extra skin, liposuction removes extra fat under the skin in a specific area. You do not have an unusually large amount of fat at the bottom of your arms, so you will not get a dramatic improvement from liposuction. You will have a noticeable improvement, but not a dramatic improvement.

Liposuction is a great tool for reshaping your body. You are already doing an even better thing for reshaping a body - cardio and weights. You can adjust your workout to reshape your arms. Having a swimmers body must mean you have large latissimus dorsi  muscles which contribute to large arms. The latissimus dorsi muscle is the large triangular shaped back muscle which extends into the arm. A well-developed latissimus will also make your arm big. Cut back on the latissimus exercises (pull-ups, chin-ups, rows, lat machines...) for a couple months and see if you notice a difference. Replace the time you spend not working your lats with extra cardio time.

Also cut back on triceps exercises which increase the size of the bottom of the arms. Replace them with more biceps exercises (and cardio) which will develop the top of the arm and pull up the skin on the bottom.

Bethesda Plastic Surgeon
4.6 out of 5 stars 21 reviews

Arm liposuction or arm lift?

Thank you for your question regarding arm liposuction or brachioplasty.

Based on your upside down picture, you have excess arm skin and fat. If you just have arm liposuction, you would be left with hanging arm skin. I do not suggest this. You need a formal brachioplasty with an incision from the axilla to the elbow. You said “I do not want scars”. If you don’t want the scar, don’t have the surgery. Unfortunately, if you cannot tolerate the arm lift scar, you will not obtain the arm lift results you are seeking.

Good luck with your quest for skinnier arms.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact my office.

Sincerely, Dr. Katzen

J. Timothy Katzen, MD, FACS
Los Angeles Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 195 reviews

Arm lift versus Liposuction

When considering the aesthetics of the arm, you have to consider the amount of excess skin and excess fatty tissue. Liposuction can address the excess fatty tissue, however it will have minimal impact on the elasticity of the skin. If you have a very tight skin surrounding your arm, then liposuction would be appropriate. If you feel like there is some laxity of the skin itself than an arm lift may be needed to achieve the desired results.
There are variations of arm lifts.   The scar can go up and down the arm, or it can be hidden in the armpit itself.  In general, the longer the scar the more skin tightening you can get.

I would visit with a board-certified plastic surgeon who can go over your options in person. It'll also give you a better sense of what the trade-offs of skin tightening versus scars. 

Young R. Cho, MD, PhD
Houston Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 37 reviews

Arm contouring options

Not wanting scars on your arms makes you a poor candidate for an arm lift/brachioplasty. Rather, I would visit with a board certified PS in your area to learn more about liposuction contouring of your arms.  Best wishes.

Dr. Basu

Houston, TX

C. Bob Basu, MD, FACS
Houston Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 210 reviews

Liposuction Vs. Brachioplasty For Arm Contour: Pros & Cons

                          When patients present with large full arms without loose skin, liposuction is an excellent treatment option. This approach minimizes scarring and results in excellent upper arm contour improvement. Unfortunately, when loose skin is present, liposuction alone doesn’t provide adequate treatment and an arm lift is usually indicated.

                  Your pictures suggest localized fat collections in the upper arm with relatively tight skin. Under these circumstances, you would be an excellent candidate for liposuction alone. If loose skin develops following this procedure, an arm lift could be performed as a secondary procedure.

                  It’s important to consult a board certified plastic surgeon with experience in this area. This surgeon will formulate a treatment plan for your unique anatomic deformity. 

Richard J. Bruneteau, MD
Omaha Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 194 reviews

Liposuction vs Armlift or Both - Many factors to consider

Thanks for submitting you photo. Although an exam would also be required for the best opinion, I would opt for just liposuction and see how things go. As you are young you should have some significant skin retraction which will be helped by wearing an elastic garment postoperatively. You will definitely get significant improvement. If for any reasons you still want further refinement then I would wait until you are through with having children and then seek the opinion of a board certified plastic surgeon.

Larry S. Nichter, MD, MS, FACS
Orange County Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 154 reviews

"Liposuction is a good possibility..."

Dear Fredri223.  It is very difficult to answer your question without a thorough and focused examination of your arms.  As long as there is not much looseness or many stretch marks on your arms, you should respond well to liposuction only, especially modalities with capacity to tighten the skin as well (i.e. ultrasonic liposuction).  If the looseness is minimal, then a small hidden scar in the armpit can also be added in addition to liposuction in order to minimize any possible post-operative laxity.  Best Wishes

Robert Morgan Davoudi, MD
Atlanta Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 130 reviews

Arm liposuction or brachioplasty

Arm liposuction or Brachioplasty: based on the photo and your age and weight, it appears that you are a good candidate for liposuction alone of the triceps area. This can often be done in an office setting under sedation with local anesthesia. Usually involves a small incision in the elbow area. I think because you are young, the skin will retract and you will get a nice result. If the skin does get loose down the road, you can always do brachioplasty and you burn no bridges. I hope this helps you!

James Motlagh, MD
Tyler Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 36 reviews

Liposuction or Arm Lift

   Young thin people with good skin and localized lipodystrophy are good candidates for liposuction alone.

Kenneth B. Hughes, MD
Los Angeles Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 492 reviews

Liposuction of the Arms Effective in Young Patients

Thank you for your question and photo.  Given your age and good skin quality, you are an excellent candidate for Laser or Vaser Liposuction. Both procedures heat up the collagen and skin giving a bit more skin tightening in addition to removing the excess fat.  This procedure should work very well without the need for an armlift!  Good luck!

Robert F. Centeno, MD, FACS
Columbus Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 77 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.