Arm Lift Surgery vs Arm Liposuction

brachioplasty arm lift surgery arm reduction

What is better for an Upper Arm Reduction? – Arm Liposuction, Arm Lift Surgery or Both?

A bulging, big or saggy upper arm can be due to excess loose skin, excess fat or both. While Arm Liposuction may help with the excess fat, the excess arm skin probably needs the surgical approach of an arm lift or arm reduction surgery.

Unfortunately, an excess deposit of fat can cause an abnormal contour of your upper arm which does not go away with conventional methods of weight loss. This abnormally stubborn fat leads to a bulky looking arm that is out of proportion with the rest of the body. Removing this fat using arm liposuction can be suitable for a small proportion of younger patients with supple skin. However, arm liposuction or ‘No Scar’ Arm lift is typically not suitable for patients with saggy excess skin that is too lax or stretched. Removing the fat will just leave more sagging skin.

Excess loose skin is typically a result of weight loss which doesn’t go away on its own. This leads to saggy skin around the arm and the appearance of bingo wings or tuck shop arms. Arm lift Surgery can help by removing the skin, while, it will leave a scar it is hidden on the underside of the arm.

saggy arm skin arm lift

What causes the Arm skin to sag?

As we age, two important proteins from our skin reduce; Elastin and Collagen. As a result, the elasticity and firmness of the skin gradually reduces. The reduction of these proteins leads to skin sagging. Subsequently, there are other factors that hasten this process, these include;

  • Poor nutrition
  • Excess intake of alcohol and cigarette smoking,
  • Continuous sun exposure (UV) for a considerable time may hasten this age-related process of loss of skin tautness and elasticity.

Your skin may also sag following;

  • sudden and rapid weight loss
  • Or, following bariatric surgery for weight loss.
  • A rare medical condition known as granulomatous slack skin can also result in excess skin sagging around the arm.

What causes fat accumulation around the arm?

Excess fat can accumulate around your arms if you take consume excess calories (more than you burn). This can be the result of a poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, and excess stress. These excess calories lead to gradual fat deposition around your arms. Excess fat deposition can also occur as a result of low testosterone levels. Testosterone helps in muscle building, while a deficiency promotes fat accumulation and storage.

Arm Lift surgery and arm liposuction are two best surgical approaches to address these issues related to abnormal arm contour.

Upper Arm Liposuction – The ‘No Scar’ Arm lift or so-called Scarless Arm lift

Liposuction, also known as lipectomy, is a minimally invasive cosmetic surgical procedure where excess fat that is resistant to conventional weight loss is permanently suctioned out from the arms. This results in arm reshaping and better arm contours. It removes ‘bulk’ from the arm by getting rid of excessive fat. However, Liposuction of the arm cannot get rid of tuck shop lady arm skin that is the result of excess skin. In fact, as Liposuction focuses on the removal of excess fat it can increase the amount of excess skin. Removing excess fat from the arms can lead to saggy skin as the arm fat is responsible for volumizing and supporting the skin. Arm liposuction alone gives the best result in cases of mild to moderate fat removal. We commonly see patients that have had Arm Liposuction when they really needed an Arm Lift Surgery.

Upper Arm Lift Surgery – Brachioplasty

Upper Arm Lift reduction Surgery, known as Brachioplasty, is a surgical method of reducing and tightening excessive wobbly skin from around the arms. Excessive skin can be left behind following excessive weight fluctuations or due to loss of skin laxity. Loss of collagen and elastin as you age leads to skin losing its firmness.  Arm lift surgery involves making an incision extending from the armpit to the elbow to remove excess skin and tighten it to give proper contour to the arms.

Arm-Lift brachioplasty

Arm Lift Surgery with Liposuction

A combination of an Arm Lift with Arm Liposuction is common as it can improve patient results. However, some patients also choose to undergo upper arm lift surgery after arm liposuction. Either option can give a better arm contour following excess fat removal.

Are you suitable for Arm Liposuction or Arm lift Surgery?

Any person undergoing these surgeries should be in a healthy weight range, should not be suffering from any chronic illnesses, and should have realistic goals for the surgery. An ideal candidate should commit to a proper exercise regimen and avoid unhealthy foods to prevent excess weight gain which may alter the results of surgery. They must also be prepared to stop smoking completely for a period before and after the surgery.

Ideal candidates for arm liposuction are people who have mild to moderate fat deposition around the arm; this arm fat is usually resistant to conventional methods of weight reduction like proper dieting and exercising. Liposuction is ideally suited for people looking to undergo fat removal rather than skin tightening. People having excess skin as a result of age-related loss of collagen, or sudden weight loss which gives them issues related to self-image and self-confidence are candidates for Arm lift surgery.

Mature patients who have reduced skin elasticity, as well as excess fat deposits in their arms, may require an arm lift after the liposuction surgery for best results.

Benefits of Arm Reduction

  • Liposuction of the arm helps get rid of excess stubborn deposits of fat permanently.
  • It requires making multiple small incisions, so the scarring associated with the procedure is minimal.
  • Skin lifts of the arms help reduce excess skin around the arm and a small amount of fat, helping attain a proper contour to arms.
  • It can also be beneficial in post-liposuction cases or any other bariatric surgery where excess skin is left behind following fat removal.

In addition to visible physical benefits, both these procedures provide a psychological boost.

benefits of an arm lift

An Upper Arm lift surgery procedure

  • During an upper arm lift, the patient will be under general anaesthesia.
  • As both arms need to be complete, the surgery takes approximately 3-4 hours.
  • An incision will be made and from the incision site, fat and excess skin are removed from the posterior part of your arm.
  • Your surgeon may place drains around the elbow region following surgery if necessary.
  • Compression garments are a post-surgery requirement. This is to reduce both pain and swelling post-surgery.
  • Intermittently raising your arms above heart level can also help reduce pain and swell.
  • You should also move gently around the day of surgery.
  • Showering should be done after 24 hours of drain removal.
  • You will need to take antibiotics to prevent infection.
  • Pain killers may be necessary to help manage pain post-surgery.
  • You should not partake in heavy work and strenuous activities for four to six weeks following surgery.
  • However, you may resume normal light activities after a few days.
  • You may return to work a fortnight after the surgery depending upon the nature of your job.
  • Your diet should contain nutritious food that is rich in fibre.
  • Smoking and consuming alcohol should be avoided during the recovery phase.

v’s an Upper Arm Liposuction procedure

  • During Arm liposuction, the patient is typically under local anaesthesia.
  • Multiple small incisions are made around the arm, and a thin cannula is inserted through these incision sites to dislodge the fat cells, which are then suctioned out using syringes.
  • This procedure is usually an outpatient or day stay procedure.
  • You will need to wear compression garments for a few weeks following liposuction to reduce post-operative pain and swelling
  • This also helps maintain the body’s new contour.
  • Swelling gradually subsides over months but complete remission might take up to a year.
  • Eating healthy, avoiding smoking, and alcohol help in early wound healing.
  • You should avoid strenuous activities involving the arm for up to 6 weeks following the surgery.
  • However, you can usually resume normal activities a week after surgery.

You may require arm lift combined with liposuction to improve your results if after the liposuction procedure excess skin is left behind as a result of the skin not contracting back to the original site after fat removal. It is usually indicated in mature people or patients having who have experienced the premature loss of skin elasticity.

Moreover, many young patients who undergo liposuction alone, return to get delayed combination of an arm lift when the satisfactory contour of skin is not achieved after arm liposuction alone. However, this is a more costly way of having both surgeries.

Furthermore, the result following arm liposuction is fairly permanent. This is due to the fact that the fat cells have gone, but that may be subject to change if you gain weight. Therefore, maintaining a healthy lifestyle after the procedure is vital.

Risks and Complications of Arm Reduction

Risks and Complications of Arm Reduction/Arm Lift and Arm Liposuction

Both Arm Lift and Arm Liposuctions have common surgical complications like;

  • Bleeding
  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Tenderness
  • Infection
  • Fluid accumulation
  • Loss of sensation around the arm
  • And complications related to anaesthesia.

In addition to these complications, specific complications associated with the two surgeries include:

  • Scarring: Though your surgeon tries their best to hide the scar following arm lift surgery, scars are permanent and larger than the scars from arm liposuction. However, they do tend to fade after 12 months and you can have non-surgical treatments to reduce scar visibility.
  • Excess leftover skin: Following Arm liposuction surgery; removal of excess fat can result in loss of support to the skin nearby resulting in excess leftover saggy skin and contour irregularities of the arm. Reduced skin collagen and elasticity in old age, make older patients more vulnerable to the possible development of these contour irregularities.
  • Fat Embolism: Pieces of fat loosened by cannulas during liposuction can make their way into the blood vessels and travel to the heart, lungs, and brain and can result in a medical emergency.

Post-operative Scarring

There is a significant difference in post-operative scarring between the two surgeries.

An arm lift is a more extensive plastic surgery procedure and uses larger incisions for excess skin removal resulting in larger post-operative scarring. Skin incision extending from armpits up to the elbow is made during this procedure. The skill of your surgeon can make the incisions less apparent by making incisions more towards the inner aspect of the arm.

Use of skin incision limited only to the elbow region can be made in cases of mild to moderate skin incision and is known as Mini-Arm lift. This results in limited post-operative scarring. For larger Arms, the incision may start below your elbow and run up beyond the armpit.

The scarring associated with liposuction is minimal. It involves the use of tiny incisions through which small cannulas are inserted to suction out excess fats from the arm. As the incision made is small, consequently, the post-operative scarring is also small.

It should be noted, that there are non-surgical ways to minimise scarring. For example Fraxel and Healite.

Summary – Arm Lift, Arm Lipo or Both?

The choice of surgery ultimately depends upon the cause of your concern – excess fat, loose skin or both. Arm liposuction may be the surgery for you if you have mild to moderate stubborn fat deposits around your arm. But it will not help remove excess skin from the arms. Removing excess skin requires Arm lift surgery. If liposuction is done to remove excess fat then excess skin may be left behind at the site of fat removal, in such cases, an arm lift can be done in addition to liposuction to better sculpt your arm.

Arm Lift Surgery Guide

Arm Lift Guide Download

Read about Brachioplasty Surgery

Arm Reduction FAQ’s – Frequently Asked Questions

Is there surgery for flabby arms?

  • An arm lift or a Brachioplasty is a plastic surgical procedure for removing excess saggy skin from the shoulder and triceps area of your arms.

What is arm liposuction?

  • Arm liposuction, or arm lipectomy, is a minimally invasive cosmetic surgical procedure where surgeons use suction to permanently remove excess fat that is resistant to conventional weight loss techniques.

What is a mini arm lift?

  • A mini arm lift is a variant of the traditional arm lift surgery which requires making a smaller incision around the armpit region only for excess skin removal.
  • This procedure may be ideal for patients with mild to moderate sagging.
  • A Mini Brachioplasty is another name for a Mini Arm Lift.

Medicare Plastic Surgery MBS item numbers

Will Medicare or my health insurance cover arm lift or arm liposuction?

  • You may be able to claim some cost of your Arm lift (Lipectomy) thru Medicare.
  • If this is the case then you may also be eligible for an insurance subsidy (if you meet strict criteria)
  • If you have had massive weight loss you may be eligible for Medicare and will need a properly documented medical indication. (Medicare Item Number 30171 – See the page on medicare rebates)
  • As arm liposuction is typically a cosmetic surgical procedure. As it is purely aesthetic without any medical indication, your insurance is unlikely to cover it. You must cover the cost of the procedure in full.

How long does swelling last following a Brachioplasty Surgery?

  • Swelling following Brachioplasty gradually resolves over approximately six weeks.
  • But mild to moderate swelling may persist for up to a year following the surgery.
  • Patients should use compression garments following surgery, they will help reduce swelling and promote early remission of swelling.

Does Arm lift surgery leave a scar?

  • Arm lift surgeries require large incisions extending from the armpits up to the elbow, as a result, post-operative scarring will be noticeable.
  • The scar following arm lift surgery is also permanent.
  • However, your surgeon will make the scar less visible by making the incision towards the inner aspect of the arm which can be easily hidden.

Medical References for Further Reading:

Armlift or Liposuction – By Dr Elliott

Arm Lift vs Liposuction – Westlake Derms

Armlift vs Lipo – Dr McMahan

Mayo Clinic – Arm Lift Page

Cleveland Clinic – Arm Lift Page

Last updated: 24/02/2021
Author profile image
Dr Patrick Briggs - FRCS, FRCSI (Plast. Surg)
Dr Patrick Briggs is an experienced Specialist Plastic Surgeon Now based in Melbourne, Australia. He is an expert in Breast, Body and Face Surgery with a special interest in Gender Assignment Surgery. Dr Briggs has been published widely in surgical literature; he is trained and experienced in all aspects of Plastic and Cosmetic Surgery. Dr Briggs’ extensive experience across multiple surgical fields has allowed him to refine his skills to produce optimum results for his patients. Combined with his experience, Dr Briggs continually attends conferences and seminars to extend his knowledge and training surrounding the latest and best surgical techniques and equipment. By doing so he is able to provide his patients with the highest level of care and skill ensuring quality results.

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What to do next?

Our Patient Liaison Team can assist with any questions you may have when considering a procedure. You can send in an enquiry form below or call our Melbourne Clinic between 9 am – 5 pm Monday to Friday.

Phone 1300 264 811, Email us: enquiries@cocoruby.com.au or Book a FREE 15-minute Phone Chat with our Patient Liaison Manager or a Virtual Consultation with a Surgeon.


Disclaimer: Results depend on individual patient circumstances and can vary significantly. Results may also be impacted by a variety of factors including your lifestyle, weight, nutritional intake and overall health. Consult your Specialist Plastic Surgeon for details. This information is general in nature and is not intended to be medical advice nor does it constitute a doctor-patient relationship. Surgery risks and complications will be covered in detail during a consultation with your Surgeon.