Arm Lift Reality - Atlanta, GA

I am a 63 year old female in superb health (5'3"...

I am a 63 year old female in superb health (5'3" tall, 116 pounds). In 2009, after being mildly overweight for many years of yoyo dieting, I lost 20% of my body weight (~30 lbs) with the help of Quick Weight Loss Center. Due to my age and weight loss, I have some loose skin. I especially disliked the size of my upper arms which did not fit my petite body. No amount of exercise or weight loss changed the size of my upper arms. After the weight loss, I discovered that I had a lipoma (about the size of a robin's egg) just above inside elbow. It was removed at the same time of my arm lift surgery. My surgery was to remove excess skin and fat from upper arms, and did not include liposuction.

Incision healing reality: I have read everything on this website regarding brachioplasty (arm lift surgery). Many surgeons (mine included) state that the arm lift surgery recovery is quick and easy. Mine has been relatively easy, but it has not been quick. At 8 weeks post-op, I am still needing to apply bandages to small areas of the incisions that reopen after having already closed. Even today, I had a puss pocket in an area that I thought was healed. I was told by nurse that the infected areas are usually undissolved sutures that are surfacing. I think this is true since I still see sutures coming through or causing festering under the incision. It has been discouraging since I have been meticulous in my wound care routine. All in all, minor setbacks. After 8 weeks, there is still some swelling and bruising, and as stated, re-openings. But, I am beginning to see a scar that looks like a thin white line and I am very pleased. I am no where near ready to expose my upper arms because of the ugly, red incision/scar, even though my arm size and shape is VERY pleasing.

Compression garment reality: It has been interesting to read the surgeons' advice regarding length of time one needs to wear a compression garment. My surgeon was vague but suggested a couple of weeks. I have read on this site, anywhere from 2 days to 4-6 weeks. After 4 weeks, I did not feel comfortable without the compression garment. As uncomfortable as the compression garment can be, it provides a feeling of security and comfort. It also keeps the bandages in place. Compression is prescribed to reduce swelling/edema and it helps to shape the arms. After 8 weeks, I am still wearing mine. A second doctor in the practice suggested that I wear mine "all summer" which I take to mean 3 months. I am willing to do so in order to ensure the best result. It also makes it easy to massage my arms (massaging is recommended to reduce swelling and to "release" the scar).

The worst part of arm lift surgery: Your doctor will tell you it is arm pit pain, and s/he is correct. It is the pits. Once the arm pits heal sufficiently, there is no more pain. On a scale of 1 to 10, arm lift surgery pain is a 1 or 2. Arm pit pain, on the other hand, is more like a 5 or 6, but it is short-lived and more annoying than painful.

My best advice: Prior to surgery, purchase wound care products. You will need lots of non-stick absorbent first aid pads. As my incisions are 8+ inches long, I purchased the 3"x8" absorbent first aid pads and cut them into 3, 1"x8" lengths. I also purchased smaller 3"x4" pads to make up the length of the incision. You will need a large container of Aquaphor or vaseline. And you will need first aid tape -- get the tape for sensitive skin. Even if your skin is not normally sensitive, it will be after surgery. I tried the regular paper tape, but it was very itchy and uncomfortable. I recommend that you price these products at different stores. The tape for sensitive skin goes for $9 a roll at RiteAid or $5 for the same roll at Publix. You don't want to put a lot of tape on your skin, so I cut it to a 2" length, then cut each piece into 4 skinny strips. You won't need a lot of tape because the Aquaphor will stick the bandage to the wound, then use just enough tape to keep the bandage in place. Although expensive, I am very impressed with how well the sensitive skin tape sticks and stays.

My other best advice: Schedule this surgery in the cooler months. I have spent the entire summer in a long sleeve compression garment. In cooler months, it would not be as bad and the garment can be concealed.

Scar Management: my doctor did not specifically recommend using the silicone gel sheets, but since I had some from previous surgery, I am just now starting to use it. Medical grade silicone sheets are expensive, but I think they work. I would rather use it and get no benefit than risk missing out on any benefit it may provide.

Bottomline: I am thrilled with the results of my arm lift surgery. If I had it to do again knowing what I now know, I would not hesitate. I may have been naive in expecting a quicker recovery. I now know (from reading this site and others) to expect scar resolution to continue at least 6 months. Also, "recovery" may mean different things to different people. In fact, I was able to resume normal activity within 4-5 days after surgery. Also, as almost every doctor on this website has expressed, every patient is different.

If you have been wanting arm lift surgery, my advice is to do it.

Realself.com has been extremely helpful in getting me through this process.

Arm Lift Reality - the Prequel

After reading several other arm lift reviews, I feel compelled to describe my actual procedure. Other reviewers indicate at least an overnight hospital/facility stay and drainage tubes. My procedure was performed in doctor's office under heavy valium and a local anesthetic. The anesthetic was directed through a cannula to the back of my upper arms. I felt slight pressure but no pain or discomfort. I felt nothing during the procedure and was fully alert and aware. After one arm was done, I took a short break to go the restroom. The procedure lasted a little longer than expected, during which my only concern was for my friend who was in the waiting room. The staff kept him informed.

After the procedure was complete, thick absorbent pads (maxi-pads) were applied to the incisions and my doctor's assistant helped me into my compression garment. There were no drainage tubes. I walked out of the procedure room (no assistance required), hugged my doctor, then walked out of the doctor's office and my friend drove me home.

I am not disparaging anyone's experience that included an overnight stay or drainage tubes -- just letting readers know that that is not always the case.

Other reviewers have also stressed that help from another person is necessary. In fact, I was fully able to take care of myself (and did). I am a very independent person, but if you have help, all the better. Just letting readers know that you can do it on your own. I did arrange to have someone walk my dog, but after a week, I did that myself.

At the beginning of my recovery, I was very careful to be aware of my physical state. The first couple of times that I removed my compression garment, I felt so light-headed that I was forced to lie down. However, I was fine after a minute or two and able to complete my care routine. During the first few days, I got tired easily and did not have my normal stamina. I changed the bandages twice a day so in short order, got good at it.

I did not shower until the third day and it was quick-quick. After a week, I was able to direct the shower to gently rain on my incisions. After another week, I was able to gently rub the incisions.

In the beginning, pulling the compression garment on/off was difficult, but as with most things, got easier each time. As was the case with the re-bandaging. My advice is to double the time it takes to get dressed and ready for your day, whatever that entails.

For the first few weeks (3-4), I felt like I had "alligator arms." I did not try to reach for anything. Part of this was physical, and in small part mental.

I may be the exception in that I am not grossed out by medical procedures. No, I am not a nurse, just practical and willing to do what is necessary to get what I want.

Arm Lift Reality - the Photos

Arm Lift Reality - Premature Scar

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