Is an arm lift possible without opioid medications?

For medical reasons I can't take opioids incl. weaker ones like tramadol, codeine, etc (has nothing to do with addiction. I've never been an addict). Is it possible/ have you ever heard of effective, non-opioid pain management for an arm lift? Are there things like nerve blocks or local numbing medications or injections (lidocaine-like things?) or high doses of NSAIDs that could provide sufficient pain control post-operatively? I've lost a lot of weight and would really like to fix my arms.

Doctor Answers 6

Is an arm lift possible without opioid medications?

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Yes, we can do the surgery with lidocaine anesthesia, as in tumescent fluid we use for liposuction, and use tylenol plain or something like a NSAID for the post op pain control. Tumescent anesthesia could reduce the amount of skin that can be resected to some degree as it causes swelling of the tissues, and hence we have to take out less to allow the skin edges to come together.

Can I have a brachioplasty(arm lift) done under a local anesthetic only?

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Yes, I do many of my face and body contouring procedures under a local anesthetic only in our certified operating room. Face and body contouring after weight loss is my specialty. I am President of the American Society of Bariatric Plastic Surgeons. Post-op pain with arm lift is usually not that great and can be alleviate by non-opiods. WE also offer tremendous financing for our weight loss patients as well as in house if they do not qualify.

Edward J. Domanskis, MD
Newport Beach Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 28 reviews

Brachioplasty/Arm lift/Liposuction/ Vaser Hi Definition procedures

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Thank you for your question. Yes, that would be possible.  I would have you work with a pain management specialist prior to undergoing elective surgery to determine best and most safe approach for you to move forward. The best way to assess and give true advice would be an in-person exam. Please see a board-certified plastic surgeon that specializes in aesthetic and restorative plastic surgery. Dr. Schwartz Board Certified Plastic Surgeon Director-Beverly Hills Breast and Body Institute #RealSelf100Surgeon #RealSelfCORESurgeon

Is an arm lift possible without opioid medications?

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The arm lift procedure is not a high pain operation. If you can put up with a little discomfort I think you would do fine with a pain pump and NSAIDS.

Ronald V. DeMars, MD
Portland Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 28 reviews


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Thanks for your question. I use a posterior approach to the arm lift which has a lower pain level and a speedier recovery, in my opinion, than the frontal approach. Despite this, I've always prescribed a few days worth of narcotic medications and have not tried to do the case without narcotic medications. I'm not saying it's not possible, but it could be challenging! I use a long-acting anesthetic called Exparel and stopped using pain pumps years ago because Exparel seems more effective and requires no tubes for it to work. It is simply injected into the area. I hope this helps! Best, Dr. Aldo

Aldo Guerra, MD
Scottsdale Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 211 reviews

Pain relief after brachioplasty

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In general, surgical procedures on bone and muscle are quite uncomfortable and frequently require narcotic analgesics, while procedures on skin and soft tissue, like an arm lift, are more easily tolerated.  If you are averse to opioids, some consideration could be given to On-Q pain pump, which can deliver local anesthetic like marcaine to the operative site for the first 4-5 days, or simple injections of long acting locals like exparel.  The non-narcotic medications you mention could then supplement the local.  I recommend discussing this matter at the time of your consultation.  Best of luck!

George Bitar, MD
Fairfax Plastic Surgeon
4.6 out of 5 stars 59 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.