What you can expect

By Mayo Clinic Staff

An arm lift can be done in a hospital or an outpatient surgical facility.

Sometimes the procedure is done with sedation and local anesthesia, which numbs only part of your body. In other cases, general anesthesia — which renders you unconscious — is recommended.

During the procedure

Your plastic surgeon will make incisions on the undersides of your arms. The length and pattern of the incisions depends on how much skin will be removed.

After making the incisions, the plastic surgeon will tighten your underlying tissues and secure them with stitches. He or she might also use a suction technique to remove fat (liposuction).

Your skin will then be draped over the new contours and excess skin will be removed. Stitches or surgical tape will be used to close the incisions.

The procedure typically takes one and a half to two hours.

After the procedure

After an arm lift, your incisions will be covered in bandages. Your arms will be loosely wrapped in elastic bandages to minimize swelling. Small tubes might be placed in your arms to drain any excess blood or fluid.

You'll likely see your plastic surgeon within a day or two after your arm lift. He or she may remove your bandages and drainage tube. You will likely have to wear a compressive sleeve or bandage for a few weeks after the surgery.

In the first few days after an arm lift:

  • Avoid lifting your arms above shoulder level.
  • Avoid forceful activities with your arms that would stretch the incisions for about six weeks after surgery.
  • Take pain medication as needed and antibiotics to prevent wound infections.

Talk to your doctor about when — or if — your stitches will be removed. Some stitches dissolve on their own. Others must be removed in the doctor's office in the weeks after the procedure.

You can resume light aerobic exercise as soon as you feel up to it. However, you will need to restrict exercise and other activities that would stretch the incisions and could cause them to separate. Generally about six weeks after surgery it's safe to resume all activities, but check with your surgeon about specific recommendations for you.

Your doctor will likely recommend applying sunscreen to your incisions for the next six months or until pinkness fades to prevent dark discoloration. Be sure to carefully follow his or her directions.

After an arm lift, contact your doctor immediately if you have:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pains
  • An irregular heartbeat
  • Redness of the skin and fever
Nov. 30, 2016