Arm Liposuction Recovery

I had my arms Liposuctioned almost 3 months ago. I had great elasticity before the procedure, so the doctor told me I was an excellent candidate. However, now I have some sagging skin on one arm, and while most of the lumps are gone, I still have a big lump on the other arm. I massage it daily but it won't go away. The doctor said I should get some more retraction, but I'm not too sure about that. Are these things normal after Liposuction?

Doctor Answers 16

Two issues

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You mentioned you had two issues with your liposuction: lumpiness at 3 months' time and sagging skin on one arm. Presumably there is an asymmetry since one side is sagging and the other not.

The best course is generally to wait for about 6 months before considering revision liposuction, if any is needed at all. Lumpiness after liposuction generally responds to massage and time. Small irregularities generally respond to revision liposuction, if they are bothersome to the patient.

At the 6 month timepoint, it would also be good to assess the degree of skin looseness, especially if it is present on one side and not the other.

If the mass does not diminish in size over time, you should have your doctor consider the possibility that the mass might be something other than a post-liposuction indurated area. I have seen several cases where a patient has had liposuction, and a mass was then noted which was actually a separate growth rather than a post-liposuction irregularity. Fortunately these masses tend to be lipomas, but should generally be treated with surgical removal and biopsy rather than liposuction.

Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 195 reviews

Recovery Following Liposuction of Arm Pit

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It’s not unusual for patients to have lumps, bumps, contour irregularities, and skin sag following upper arm liposuction. Contour irregularities may have a variety of potential causes. These may include differential swelling, fat necrosis, hematomas, and seromas. They are usually transient and respond to conservative management with compression garments and massage. Rarely, aspiration is necessary when hematomas and seromas are present. In most cases, these problems have no effect on the long term results of liposuction.

In other cases, loose upper arm skin may result in the development of upper arm skin sag. When this occurs, compression garments and conservative management may be successful, but occasionally an upper arm brachioplasty may be necessary.

Since swelling can persist for 3 to 6 months following the procedure, secondary surgery should not be performed for at least 6 months. It’s virtually impossible to make a recommendation without a physical examination, especially since it’s only been 3 months since surgery.

It’s important to stay in touch with your plastic surgeon. Although, you’re not totally happy with your result, this may change with time. If secondary surgery is indicated, your surgeon should be able to formulate an appropriate treatment plan that addresses your concerns. 

Wait a bit more

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Lumpiness can be from swelling or areas that were not adequately liposuctioned. However, it is a bit early to revise anything. Massage is unlikely to improve the lumpiness at this time.  The skin laxity will probably not improve.

Steven Wallach, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
4.2 out of 5 stars 30 reviews

You will likely need a touch up procedure

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It sounds like there may be a small area of fat that is still remaining, but this can easily be treated with a procedure under local anesthetic. Give yourself a minimum of 6 months before undergoing a repeat procedure, but it should do the trick.

Shahram Salemy, MD, FACS
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 155 reviews

It is not usual to have some lumps at the three month stage after liposuction.

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However you probably will not have that much more retraction of the skin at this stage.  You may need to have a mini-brachioplasty to correction the loose skin.  Hopefully you are enjoying and benefitting from the results of the surgery when wearing tight sleeved tops and sweaters.  I would suggest waiting at least a year before contemplating any other procedure.

Liposuction most effective in the BACK of the arms.

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That's where most of the fat is and where the skin is tightest.  When liposuction is done on the undersides of the arms, that can lead to more sagging.  I am afraid that at 3 months you are close to the final result.

George J. Beraka, MD (retired)
Manhattan Plastic Surgeon

I would continue to follow the advice of your plastic surgeon as he/she knows and you the best!

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Skin and soft tissue irregularities are known complications following liposuction. I usually do not perform revision surgery following liposuction until at least 3 to 6 months, depending upon each patient’s physical findings. I would continue to follow the advice of your plastic surgeon. He/she knows and you the best and understands the surgery performed. Potential revision surgery may require additional liposuction and/or possible skin excision (brachioplasty). I hope this helps!

Stephen A. Goldstein, MD
Englewood Plastic Surgeon

Irregularities after liposuction

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In the early postoperative period, some irregularities are normal following liposuction.

Resolution of swelling and localized areas of infammantion can take up to a few months to improve, and often are helped with massage and compression. Especially in bilateral procedures such as yours, when you have a second similar site like your other arm to compare to, irregularities may seem more apparent to you.

But the good news is... if your irregularities are swelling and inflammation, they will likely improve with time- give at LEAST 3 if not 6 months to be sure.

If they are not temporary and are deposits of fat left behind, they can likely be fixed with a little touch up procedure that is short and relatively easy to perform.

Skin retraction after liposuction

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It can take up to 6 months to see the final results of skin tightening after liposuction. What may help your post-op progress is a compression garment which will help keep the edema down and aid in skin retraction, though at three months the utility of the garment is minimal.

The lump itself may represent a hematoma or unaspirated fat depending on the liposuction technique. Continue massage and reassess at six months.

Of course you should discuss your post-operative progress with your treating surgeon.

Good luck!

Lumps after arm liposuction

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Thank you for the question! It is rather difficult to fully evaluate your situation without an in-person exam. That being said, small lumps and other contour irregularities are not uncommon after liposuction.  These can be collections of blood (hematomas) or pockets of fat (fat necrosis). Typically, they will resolve in 2-3 weeks along with most bruising. Keep in mind that residual swelling will take additional 2-3 months to completely subside.  

Although some physicians recommend massaging these lumpy areas, it's effectiveness is not entirely confirmed. I'd suggest that you give it time and let healing process complete naturally. If your swelling persists months after the procedure or you begin to experience increasing discomfort, you should notify your plastic surgeon. 

Remember that an in-person exam with a board-certified plastic surgeon would be the best way to assess your situation and guarantee an individualized medical advice. Best of luck!

Michael M. Omidi, MD, FACS
Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 122 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.