Can Loose Skin Around My Elbows Be Removed?

Q: I have loose wrinkled skin on the inside of my arm where my elbow bends. Is there a procedure that would improve this area? It is not due to weight loss. It is due to aging. I am 50 years old and this just appeared recently.

A: Loose skin often appears across joints like the knees and elbows as a result of aging. The near constant flexion and extension of these major extremity joints over time can result in some eventual sag from the wear and tear on the skin. While not seen in flexion, this skin becomes more evident in extension of these joints.

There are plastic surgery procedures to remove this excess skin. Known as elbow and knee lifts, they are almost exclusively done in extreme weight loss patients. With a lot of weight loss, the sagging skin extends from the body outward towards the hands and feet. Rolls of skin can frequently be seen past the elbows and knees. In bariatric plastic surgery patients, removal of this excess skin is commonly considered and done. While this results in scars, it is  usually considered a more favorable trade-off.

In the comparatively mild amount of loose skin that can develop from aging around knees and elbows, replacing it with scars is a more dubious trade-off. Many cosmetic procedures involve scars as a substitute for the original problem. As a result one has to be crystal clear that this trade-off is clearly better. In the weight loss patient, there is usually no doubt. In the non-weight loss patient, the amount of loose skin and how bothersome it is must be carefully considered.

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana