Armlifts (Brachioplasty) after Weight Loss

Q: I’ve lost about 90 lbs and now I have excess skin that hangs on my upper arms that I want to have fixed.

A: One of the many skin problems that develops after large amounts of weight loss is that of loose hanging arms. The skin on the back of the upper arm in the triceps area hangs down, creating what is often called ‘bat wings’.  The excess skin frequently extends into the armpit (axillary) area and down into the side of the chest wall. Such large amounts of upper arm skin are a unique finding amongst extreme weight loss patients, particularly after bariatric surgery. Interestingly, this arm problem occurs overwhelmingly in women and not usually in men. (I have never performed an armlift in men) It may be that men’s skin shrinks down better after weight loss.

An armlift, known in plastic surgery as a brachioplasty, is an extremely effective procedure for reducing the size of the upper arms and getting rid of this loose floppy skin. While it accomplishes this result with the trade-off of a long arm scar, patients with this amount of loose arm skin consider that scar better than the excess skin. Armlifts are one of the most satisfying of all weight loss body contouring surgeries.

Armlifts traditionally have either placed the scar running down the middle of the inside of the arm or on the back of the arm. Recently, I am using a new technique during surgery that places the scar between the middle and the back of the arm with significantly better results.  The scar is not only better hidden but the common postoperative wound healing problems that used to occur (particularly when using the inside of the arm location) have been largely eliminated.

Dr. Barry Eppley