1 Day Post-Op
As a quick update, my surgery went well yesterday. I went in at 5:30 and I believe I was back home by around 2:00 (memory is a little fuzzy). I spent most of yesterday laying on my couch catching up with my neglected DVR, although by today I was back to working from home. Yesterday I unwrapped my thighs because it is completely impossible go to the bathroom with ace bandages on your legs. I’ve been obsessive about making sure my incisions are super clean after every bathroom trip which makes what usually takes a minute, about a 10 minute process. Blah. My thighs are still swollen so it’s hard to see what the final result will be.
This morning I decided I needed a shower, so I got myself out of all of my compression and finally got to check out my arms. My doctor had placed the incisions exactly where I wanted them- not in the bicipital groove, not along the posterior of the arm, but almost in the middle so they are so well hidden I think I hurt myself a little trying to see them in the mirror. I am VERY pleased with the location of the scar and I am so lucky to have found a surgeon who not only listened to my very specific directions on where I wanted the scar, but then executed it perfectly. I was extra worried about the brachioplasty because of all of my scars it is by far the most visible and trading one deformity for another didn’t seem like the greatest plan. So far, I’m glad I decided to go for it, despite being on the fence about the arm lift for a few months.
Outside of that, I haven’t had trouble doing anything. I can’t lift my arms up high enough to get stuff out of my kitchen cabinets, but I stood on a chair so that solved that problem. Brushing my hair is a little awkward, but it was completely possible. As of right now I’m about 6 hours overdue on my next Percocet and while the thigh incisions don’t hurt at all, my arms feel a bit like they are on fire- a solid 5 on the 1-10 scale. The pain is tolerable without drugs, although I totally plan on taking one before bed.
While it’s only day one after surgery and I look a little like the Michelin Marshmallow from all of the swelling, I’m optimistic that once I return to a normal, non-fluid filled person, I will be extremely pleased with the results of this surgery.
2 Weeks Post-Op/ 1st week Embrace
The two weeks after surgery have been fine. Figuring out how to wrap yourself in compression when you only have one hand to do each arm is amusing, particularly the first few days when you’re hopped up on Percocet. I had a hard time pre-surgery deciding on a form of compression. I ordered the compression arms from MakeMeHeal and they were totally impractical for someone who had a brachioplasty, though potentially good for someone using them to prevent edema following lymph node removal. The problem with the sleeves is that they fasten in the back and there is no way you can wiggle into the sleeves without undoing the snaps and no way you can snap it closed behind your back without help. Also, the sizing is off and compression was not overly tight. Instead, I stuck with the ace bandage wrapping of my arms and then put a pair of little girl footless tights (size 6T) cut in half over my arms. This not only kept the ace bandages in place but provided a nice bit of extra compression as well.
My right arm decided to blow up after the first few days while I slept and while I was working at my desk so that I woke up with fingers that looked like Vienna sausages for a few days. I fixed this first by wrapping my arms lower than my elbows, which just pushed more swelling into my hand and then when I gave up on that plan and went back to just wrapping my arms from shoulder to elbow, the swelling eventually resolved and hasn’t been back in about 3 days.
I peeled off my steristrips a few days before my follow-up appointment to make sure the incisions were fully healed enough to use the Embrace strips. I had two mild problem areas so I slathered the full incision line with Neosporin twice a day, taped an abdominal pad over the whole area, and then wrapped them up in their gauze and tights. This worked well because they were fully closed and ready to go for my appointment.
Moving onward, yesterday was my two week follow-up visit with my surgeon, during which time he and his staff helped me apply the first week of Embrace scar therapy to my arms. We agreed that all of my incisions look like they are healing well and I stressed how awesome the placement of the scars was. I could not have asked for a better surgeon- he put my scars exactly where I wanted them, which as I mentioned in my earlier post was non-traditional placement and probably a huge hassle given the way the arm had to be bent during surgery to accomplish it. Then an MA and PA (all of which at this practice are really friendly, competent, nice people) helped with the placement of the Embrace strips.
We ended up using one full box of the 16cm strips, which equates to one strip from elbow to mid-bicep area and one strip from mid-bicep to the end of the incision in my axillary area. At first it felt a little weird because Embrace is basically like really sticky, wide, clear tape, however after less than an hour I kind of got the idea why they named it Embrace. Corny as it sounds, my arms seriously felt embraced. I had a few issues the last two weeks in that I would twist wrong and feel like I pulled on the incision and that has not happened once since I’ve had the Embrace on. The idea of Embrace is to reduce scars through reduction of tension, and I would absolutely say that it seems to be accomplishing that. Much as it may all be in my head because I really REALLY wanted the scar therapy to work, I am ok with that. My arms not only hurt less, but I had the compression off for part of yesterday during my trip to the doc and then during a bit of grocery shopping and part of this morning and my arms did not seem to swell. I had the compression off the night before my follow-up appointment and within an hour of moving around I felt like I had lead pipes attached to my shoulders. The change may simply be a result of healing, but I am fine giving credit to Embrace- at least for now!
Past that, I now have enough Embrace to last me through 4 weeks, at which point I have another appointment and will pick up my last 4 boxes to get me through the required 8 week protocol.
As for the rest of my surgery, I’ll leave the leg portion of my review for the thigh lift page, but short version of that- legs are healing fine! The bit of lipo the doc did on my stomach was exactly what I needed for my prior abdominoplasty to be even more awesome than it was. My stomach is super flat and super hard and I am a super fan of the way that worked out. Super.
Countdown: 17 Days Post-Op
7 Weeks Post-Op
15 Jan 2015
2 months post
It has now been 7 weeks since my arm lift and I LOVE my results. My arms are so small now! I feel like my entire upper body matches now instead of being slim with big, flappy wings for arms. My scars are still perfectly in place exactly where I wanted them and seem to be healing very well.
I am a little undecided on whether or not the Embrace strips are worth the extra $1080 cost. Much as I would still use them if I repeated the surgery, because I am shallow and want my scars to be as perfect as possible, I really don’t tend to feel that the Embrace strips made a huge difference as of this point in the process. I feel like the scarring in the end really does come down to personal genetics and the skill of the surgeon. Fortunately, I seem to scar well and I have a rock star surgeon, so the fact that my scars are very narrow and seem to be healing very well, I really credit to technique and my skin more so than Embrace. That being said, for very visible scars like this, any little bit helps, so I would go for Embrace again, but for scars that are hidden such as abdominoplasty scars, I don’t tend to think the impact of the scar therapy is justified by the cost. If it comes down to spending a grand more to have an awesome doctor or getting an only-ok surgeon and spending the grand on Embrace…I would certainly go for the former of the two options.
At 6 weeks I was back in the gym. I still feel a twinge of pain along the incision line every once in awhile and I am probably more cautious than I need to be about stretching my arms over my head or lifting heavy weights, but I notice the little tweaks of pain less and less as time goes on. The contour improvement on my arms is enormous and while I was worried about whether the wings or the scar would bother me more, I am very happy that I decided to get this procedure and as of today have changed my rating to “worth it”.
Countdown: 7 weeks post-op
4 Months Post-Op
24 Mar 2015
4 months post
I am now 4 months post-op and have uploaded the before and after photos of my arms. I am very pleased with the overall results. When I need to hide the scars I use make-up, which is becoming more and more effective as the scars fade.
Overall, I was not overly impressed with Embrace. Much as it felt nice to have the tape on my arms, it comes at the cost of not being able to use other scar solutions such as BioCorneum during the pivotal 2-10 week healing time. Because I couldn't use the BioCorneum on my arms, these scars are now a lot redder than others from the same surgery on which I used the cream and not Embrace. My scars are still narrow and have shown minimal spreading, which I credit to my surgeon's technique, but perhaps the Embrace helped a bit in that area. Overall, it was an experiment worth trying, but in the future I will probably stick with the Biocorneum solution as opposed to Embrace.
So, my verdict on the arm-lift is that it is very much worth the cost. I feel much more confident now that my wings are gone and while the scars are a pretty big trade-off, in the end I would still opt to have the surgery as opposed to spending forever with big, flappy arms.