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The procedure

Brachioplasty is an operation to remove redundant skin and fat from the upper arms (sometimes referred to as “bingo or bat wings”) and tighten the remaining skin.

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Before and after pictures of a patient of Mr Pacifico who has undergone a full brachioplasty

What does it involve?

Brachioplasty may be performed as an isolated procedure or can be performed in conjunction with other body contouring procedures such as breast reduction. It is performed under general anaesthetic and uses the combined surgical techniques of liposuction and skin excision. It leaves a scar that runs on the inside of the arm just above the elbow into the armpit and sometimes further down onto the side of the chest.

What are the benefits?

Brachioplasty addresses the loose excess skin that may develop in association with age or weight loss. The surgery improves the contour and shape of the upper arm. After the surgery, many people feel able to wear clothes and swimwear they had previously felt uncomfortable wearing

How long does the surgery take?

The surgery takes 1.5-2 hours.

What is the recovery period?

You will stay in hospital overnight after the surgery to ensure that there is only minimal fluid coming into the surgical drains which are inserted during your operation. You will be given a support bandage to wear after the operation, or alternatively commercially available support garments may be worn. Bruising and swelling lasts 1-2 weeks. You will have to minimise daily activities following the procedure to allow the wounds adequate time to heal. You should be able to return to light duties after 2 weeks, following a post-operative wound check. Gentle exercises should be started 1-week after surgery to prevent elbow and shoulder stiffness.

How long before daily activities may be resumed?

You should only undertake light sedentary activities after your operation. Strenuous exercise or sporting activity should be avoided until 6-weeks post-surgery. You may be able to drive at 2-weeks, but remember that you need to be comfortable in performing an emergency stop or similar manoeuvre.

What are the success rates?

You will notice a visible improvement in your arm contour immediately, however the final result should be judged 1-year after surgery, once the scars have settled down. The results of brachioplasty are usually very good and long-lasting, but large fluctuations in weight and the normal effects of ageing can lead to recurrence of loose skin over time.

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Massive weight-loss patient shown 8-months after undergoing a full brachioplasty

What are the possible complications?

Complications are relatively uncommon after brachioplasty, however the following may be associated with this procedure:

  • Swelling of the arm which may take a long time to resolve in some people
  • Bleeding/haematoma (a collection of blood) requiring a return to the operating theatre
  • Wound infection, delayed healing and fat necrosis (higher risk in diabetics and recent ex-smokers)
  • Unsightly scarring in some people
  • Nerve injury resulting in numb patches of skin in the arm
  • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolus (PE) – these are blood clots that may occur in the leg (DVT) and travel to the lung (PE) which may be very serious – fortunately they are uncommon in brachioplasty surgery.
  • Suture spitting – this refers to the deeper dissolvable stitches poking out of the wound some time after the surgery. This happens because occasionally these stitches do not dissolve as quickly as intended, and they then try to work their way out of the wound in much the same way as a splinter would. These stitches can either be removed at one of your hospital visits or they may work their way out on their own.
  • Further surgery may be needed for any of the above