Arm Lift/Upper Body Lift


What It Does

As we age, the skin of the upper arm can become loose and flabby, creating both discomfort and self-consciousness. Men and women who have achieved significant weight loss (following bariatric surgery, for example) often experience the frustration of excess skin and persistent fat along the upper arms. Brachioplasty, commonly known as an arm lift, removes excess fat and skin and helps to create more youthful contours in the upper arm.

Significant weight loss may also produce rolls of skin under the arms, on the chest, and across the back. In addition to an arm lift, your surgeon may suggest adding additional plastic surgery techniques that work together to create an upper body lift. During an upper body lift, your surgeon will excise excess fat and skin across the back, under the arms, and on the chest. Your surgeon may also recommend breast surgery to proportion the breasts to your new upper body contours.

Procedure Basics

Based on your general health and anatomy, your surgeon will map out your arm lift or upper body lift. The procedure is done under general anesthesia, so be sure to have someone available to pick you up and be with you following your surgery. During the surgery, an incision will be made along the back of the upper arm from the underarm to the elbow. Your surgeon will remove excess skin and fat, and may contour the remaining arm tissues with liposuction. The incision may be made under the arms to hide the surgical scar when your arms are lowered, or the incision may be made along the back of the arm. You should discuss the various options with your surgeon prior to surgery.

If there is a great deal of excess skin in the upper body to remove, the incision may continue through the underarm around to the chest area, allowing your surgeon to remove excess skin under the arms and on the chest.  Incisions may extend from the lateral chest to the breast, and occasionally will also extend across the back in the bra band area. This allows the surgeon to excise excess skin and create the slimming contours that are the goal of an upper body lift.


Straight-forward recovery and successful surgery require that you follow your doctor’s post-operative care instructions carefully. You will be given instructions on taking any medications prescribed to you and on caring for your incisions.  You should avoid subjecting the incisions to any excess stress, force, or abrasion during the healing process. Patients usually resume normal activities four to six weeks after surgery.

Your surgeon may place one or more small tubes, or drains, in your incisions to allow excess fluids to drain, but these are temporary. You may also need to wear compression garments or bandages on your arms and upper body to help reduce post-surgical swelling and help your incisions heal. Your surgeon may recommend that you keep your arms elevated above your heart for the first few days of healing. The results of your surgery will be quickly apparent once post-surgical swelling subsides. Full results may take up to a few months to be fully visible and will be long-lasting, provided you follow a healthy diet and exercise plan.

Additional Information

You will want to discuss any surgical risks with your doctor, who will review your medical history and current health status during your consultation. Possible risks following surgery include prolonged numbness or tingling in the fingers and arms, poor wound healing, unfavorable scarring, swelling in the hands, asymmetry, and persistent pain.

During your consultation, you will also want to discuss the extent of your surgery. If your upper arms simply seem to have fat deposits that weight reduction will not help, liposuction through small incisions may be the simplest approach. If you are considering an upper body lift in addition to an arm lift, you may want to review information on breast surgery to match your breasts to your new body contours. It will be important for you and your surgeon to develop a plan together to reach your cosmetic goals.

It is important to understand that based on the extent of surgical work that will be required and your personal expectations, it may be necessary to schedule more than one surgery to achieve your goals or to correct any issues that might arise during the healing process. You should discuss this and other post-surgical aspects with your doctor.

Additional Resources

There is a wealth of information available concerning brachioplasty (arm lifts) and body lifts provided by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (www.plasticsurgery.org) ; click on “Cosmetic” and choose from the list of procedures. The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, Inc. (www.surgery.org) also provides in-depth information; choose “Procedures” for a list of topics.

To schedule a consultation to discuss arm lift or upper body lift surgery with Dr. Christine Kelley, please call 317/575-0330.