Arm lift: procedure, risks, recovery

Written by: Mr Rob Winterton
Published: | Updated: 04/04/2019
Edited by: Nicholas Howley

It’s getting increasingly popular to have an abdominoplasty after losing a lot of weight – but did you know you can solve excess skin on your arms as well? We asked leading plastic and reconstructive surgeon Mr Rob Winterton what an arm lift involves, whether the procedure carries any risks, and how long recovery takes.


Why might someone need an arm lift?

An arm lift is for situations where you have too much skin on your arm after losing a lot of weight. It might be that you’re self-conscious when you are exercising or wearing a short-sleeve top. Both men and women can have an arm lift but almost all of the people we see in the clinic are women.

Because weight loss happens all over the body, it’s not unusual to combine an arm lift with other kinds of procedures, such as breast surgery or abdominoplasty.

How is arm lift surgery performed?

Arm lift surgery always involves cutting out excess skin. It can also involve liposuction if there is excess fat or simply to help with the reshaping of the arm.

The procedure is quite simple:

  1. The arms are marked where the skin will be removed before the surgery
  2. The procedure is performed under general anaesthetic, or sedation usually
  3. The arms are placed in position ready for the surgery
  4. The excess skin is removed alongside liposuction if required
  5. The wounds are stitched up
  6. Dressings are applied

The total length of the operation is usually 1-2 hours. Of course, the length depends on whether the arm lift is combined with other procedures such as breast surgery or abdominoplasty.

Does arm lift surgery leave scars?

An arm lift does involve scars, but these will be on the inside of the arm. They should be hidden when you hang down your arms on either side of the body. Most surgeons try to keep the scars in the upper arm, but sometimes the scar can go down onto the body if there is also skin to remove on the body.

Because of the direction they have to sit, the scars are often widened, rather than a really nice thin line. They can take from a few months to a couple of years to mature, but once they’re healed up, they can be covered up with camouflage makeup.

Are there any risks to the procedure?

This is fairly straightforward surgery in concept, but all surgical procedures involve risk. The main risks are:

  • blood clots in the arm
  • injury to the blood vessels of nerves in the arm
  • problems with the healing of the wound like infection, or wound opening up

How long after arm lift surgery can I start to exercise again?

It’s important to avoid heavy exercise for 4-6 weeks after surgery in order to avoid complications such as fluid collections and wound problems.

Unfortunately, most exercises involve moving the arms, including running, cross-training, weightlifting, swimming, and yoga. The main form of exercise that is safe for the arms is walking. If it’s really important for you to get back to exercise as soon as possible, your surgeon may manage this by encouraging you to slowly introduce low-impact exercises around the 3-week mark, and conducting regular check-ups.

By Mr Rob Winterton
Plastic surgery

Mr Rob Winterton is a consultant plastic, reconstructive and hand surgeon based in the North West (Manchester and Rochdale). He has more than 15 years of experience and has worked internationally. Mr Winterton specialises in cosmetic surgery, hand surgery, breast surgery and skin surgery.

Initially qualifying from the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne, Mr Winterton went on to complete his higher surgical training on the Leeds/Manchester plastic surgery registrar training scheme for six years. From 2013, Mr Winterton spent a year working in Adelaide, Australia. This experience allowed him to consolidate his experience in cosmetic and reconstructive surgery.

After returning to the UK in 2014, Mr Winterton completed the British Diploma in Hand Surgery, for which he now teaches current students. He presents his work nationally and internationally, with a solid repertoire of book chapters and peer-reviewed articles to his name. Mr Winterton is a council member for the North West region of the British Association of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS) and strives to deliver excellence in his practice across Manchester.

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