Not Sure if I Am Supposed to Get Arm Lipo or an Arm Lift? Pictures Included.

I am 30 yrs old,124 pds/size 2-4 but my arms seem super flabby and out of proportion with my body. I was obese when I was a child and ever since it seems I have carried excess weight on my arms. I was a size 6-8 until a few months ago and thought that was the problem but now I am starting to believe it is excess skin. I am making an appointment for an augmentation after I have a baby (I am not yet pregnant) and wanted to fix this problem as well but was curious which procedure is needed? Thanks!

Doctor Answers 29

Arm Contour Brachioplasty vs Liposuction

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Hi, thanks for your post and your pictures.  By looking at your pictures the only conclusion that I can come up with is that I absolutely would not give you advice based on this.

You have 3 surgical options:

1.  Liposuction

2. Liposuction with axillary dome excision

3. Brachioplasty +/- liposuction


Lets go step by step with pros and cons risks and benefits

Unique Risk #1 Lymphedema:  Any time you operate on an extremity, particularly about the axilla you have a risk of permanent swelling of the arm.

#2 Asymmetry one arm will be slightly different in size than the other.

This applies for any of the three procedures above

1.  liposuction benefit:  less scarring 5mm incisions vs a great big one, easier recovery.  con:  addresses fatty component alone and relies on contracture of the skin to establish overall contour

2.  Liposuction with axillary dome excision same as # 1 with addition of a crescent of skin removed in the armpit which is easily concealed by not wearing sleeveless clothing (all kidding aside, this generally heals well)  This operation benefits a very small percentage of arm contouring patients

3.  Brachioplasty:  tried and trued, very reliable reduction in circumference, very variable scar formation.  difficult to hide incisions, can get neuromas and prolonged pain if a very aggressive resection undertaken.


Your recommendation:

I recommend you see a board certified plastic surgeon who has experience with liposuction AND brachioplasty.  I cannot tell what the quality of skin you have about your arm as well as the amount of fat over the biceps and deltoids.  Given your age, height, and weight, I would lean towards a circumferential liposuction procedure to give your skin a chance to contract and get the look that you would like.  Should you be displeased with loose hanging skin, a brachioplasty can always be performed.  If you have good skin tone, I would proceed in this fashion in order to save you the scar.  For background information, I operate on many massive weight loss patients, and I find that a brachioplasty is invaluable, however, given your size, you really don't want that scar if there is a chance that you can do without it.


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I would suggest trying liposuction first and see how much elasticity you have. In my experience you will have some improvement reducing the weight of the fat. Non invasive skin tightening such as RF (Velashape 3) may be of further benefit. If not satisfied you could then consider an arm lift.

Not sure if I am supposed to get arm lipo or an arm lift?

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If the primary problem is some excess fat but the skin has good tone and is snug and then liposuction would be a good option. When there is loose skin however liposuction will often make skin laxity worse. If the skin is the primary problem then a brachioplasty or arm lift would be the best solution.Brachioplasty or arm lift surgery is one of the most frequently requested body contouring procedures performed today. The demand for this procedure has increased more than 800% since 1997. This is the greatest percent change of any of the commonly performed cosmetic surgical procedures Much of the increase in popularity is due to the growing number of patients who undergo massive weight loss. In performing this procedure an incision is made on the inside of the arm extending from the elbow into the armpit. Sometimes it is necessary to extend the incision further into the armpit and sometimes past it. Utilizing this incision excess skin is removed and the wound is closed. It is very important to position the scar properly so that it is concealed as much as possible. A well-placed incision should result in a scar that is only visible when the arms are raised. This operation is normally performed as an outpatient. It is very important for the surgeon to discuss the resultant scar thoroughly with the patient preoperatively. Very commonly this scar takes a longer time to undergo the full healing and maturation process. Maturation refers to the process whereby the scar becomes less apparent. Brachioplasty scars commonly take up to 2 years to fully mature. Immediately after the operation compressive Ace wraps are placed from the fingers up to the armpit. These can normally be removed within 24-48 hours postoperatively. Elastic compression sleeves commonly worn by athletes can be purchased relatively inexpensively at any sporting good store. Many patients wear these for up for up to 2 weeks postoperatively. No vigorous activity or strenuous activity is recommended for 3 weeks postoperatively. Complications following a well planned and well executed brachioplasty are uncommon. They may include however wound infection or wound breakdown. Is very important to follow the directions of your surgeon postoperatively to ensure the best result.

John J. Edney, MD
Omaha Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 133 reviews

Your Pictures Suggest You'd Benefit From a Brachioplasty

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                   It’s not unusual for patients who have undergone massive weight loss to develop loose saggy upper arm skin. When this occurs treatment varies from patient to patient and depends on a variety of factors. Under these circumstances the vast majority of patients require brachioplasty to correct their problem.

                  Your pictures suggest that you would benefit from brachioplasty, but without a physical examination it’s hard to make a recommendation. In patients with good skin tone, liposuction might also represent a treatment option, but this is unusual in massive weight loss patients.

                  Consultation with a board certified plastic surgeon is appropriate. This surgeon should be able to guide you in the right direction. 

Brachioplasty (arm lift)

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You have excess skin laxity of the arms.  Removing and tightening the excess skin will require a brachioplasty (arm lift).  Liposuction will address the loose skin.  A mini arm lift is designed for people with just a small amount of extra skin near the arm pit.

All the best,

Dr Remus Repta

Remus Repta, MD
Scottsdale Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 173 reviews

Need an exam to know for certain

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There are many causes for flabby arms. Incisions can be very small or large depending on location of fat. If one has flabby arms, the best indicator of the treatment would be the elasticity of the skin.  If the skin has good elasticity, then Liposuction alone may be the answer.  If not, then an arm lift to resect the excess skin is best.  However, the best indication for an arm lift, and the most gratifying are those who have lost a lot of weight.  The skin is usually flabby and overstretched.  It is simple and effective to remove the skin that has been stretched past its capacity.  No Liposuction, or other noninvasive modalitiy will help the skin become more firm around the arms.  The length and type of the incision will vary depending upon the location and the amount of fat in the arms.  The cost will also vary by geographic locale.  Most will run anywhere from $3500-$7000.  I would advise you to visit with a board certified plastic surgeon to have treatment recommendations specific to your concerns.

Undergo a brachioplasty to achieve the results you want

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Dear Kristy:

Based on your pictures, I would suggest liposuction and an arm lift to be performed at the same time.  You have excess skin and fat that goes down to the elbow and I do not think that liposuction alone would give you arms that you would be proud of.  I would therefore suggest you undergo a brachioplasty.

Thank you,
J. Timothy Katzen, MD, FACS

J. Timothy Katzen, MD, FACS
Los Angeles Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 254 reviews

Arm lift and upper arm liposuction are very different operations..

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Arm lift surgery and arm liposuction are very different surgeries and are performed for different reasons. Arm liposuction can be done if you have arm skin with good elasticity so that after your fat is removed your skin will shrink around your remaining tissues. If you have poor elasticity then your skin will hang more after fat is removed. Your pictures are definitely not conclusive. You will need to be examined by a Board certified Plastic Surgeon who has experience in body contouring surgeries. In the meantime keep your biceps, triceps and deltoid muscles toned.

Laurie A. Casas, MD, FACS
Chicago Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 110 reviews

Arm lift

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Thank you for the picture. It appears that you have loose skin and liposuction would worsen your sagging. An arm lift would be the correct procedure and you have to weigh result against the scarring. This is a personal choice. If you are planning children, the weigh gain and loss from pregnancy could affect the arms so you may want to consider deferring this surgery until afterwards.

Arm lift vs. arm lipo

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Based on the photos, the best solution is an arm lift procedure.  Liposuction could make the problem worse by creating more loose skin.  Please seek consultation by a surgeon who is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and look at pictures so that you are comfortable with the location and the visibility of the scar!

Good luck!

Shahin Fazilat, MD, FACS
Mountain View Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 14 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.