Swelling and Unable to Extend Arm 5 Weeks Post-op Arm Lift / Thigh Lift / Tummy Tuck - is This Normal?

I am recovering from an arm lift, tummy tuck, & thigh lift near 5 weeks post-op. I am unable to fully extend my right arm up (short scar)without the visibility, pain and pulling of a sensory cord. The pain extends to my fingers and up my shoulder and neck. It is not as apparent in my left arm, but noticeable with the shoulder & neck pain. The left side of my tummy is more swollen than the right with a puffiness on my left hip around the incision.

Doctor Answers 4

Decreased Range Of Motion Following Brachioplasty

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Limited shoulder range of motion is unusual following arm lift surgery. This problem can occur for a variety of reasons including musculotendinous injuries, nerve injuries and scar contractures across the axilla.

When patients are unable to lift their arms over their head following brachioplasty, the problem is almost always related to axillary scarring. This problem occurs when an incision is made across the axilla. Exuberant scarring results in a flexion contracture which severely limits the ability to fully extend the arm.

When this situation arises, a variety of treatment options are available to treat this deformity. In some cases, range of motion exercises will adequately address the problem. In more severe cases, local rearrangement of tissue is necessary to remove the axillary scar web. In the majority of cases, this is accomplished with a procedure known as a z-plasty.

Patients who have axillary webbing following brachioplasty should consult their plastic surgeon Their surgeon should be able to formulate a treatment plan that addresses this anatomic deformity and ultimately improves range of motion.

Difficulty moving arm

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Sometimes the difficulty moving or raising the arm is due to the incision band that often crosses the armpit. This usually softens with time.  If you have numbness in your hand that cause can be from several things. including nerve entrapment or even as simple as swelling. You should see your doctor.

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

Arm lift and scar pain

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I would completely agree with Dr. Rand's recommendation. In addition to the scar, there may be concerns with nerve entrapment. Seek evaluation by your surgeon.

Otto Joseph Placik, MD
Chicago Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 86 reviews

Problems with short scar arm lifts

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A short scar arm lift can create a surgically induced axillary contracture which can limit your arm motion and cause a band to be coming down from the armpit when you try to lift the arm out.  Go back to your surgeon and see what can be done with massages.  You might need a revision if these don't help.

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.