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Performed by specialist plastic surgeon Dr David Sharp in Brisbane. Learn more about arm lift benefits, risks and recovery – and view before and after photos. 

What is an arm lift?

An arm lift, or brachioplasty, is a surgical procedure that reshapes the upper arms by reducing excess skin. It is not designed to reduce fat; liposuction with brachioplasty is required to do this. Brachioplasty is also commonly called arm lift or arm reduction surgery. It is part of a category of procedures called lipectomy surgery; this means the removal of skin and underlying fat through surgical excision. 

Fluctuations in weight, the ageing process, and heredity can cause the upper arms to have excess skin. This cannot be corrected through diet or exercise, and can cause skin folds and hygiene issues.

Arm lift surgery may be right for you if the underside of your upper arms have excess skin. Sometimes it may be used in conjunction with liposuction to reduce fat deposits in the arms and also address the excess skin elasticity with skin excision.

Why have brachioplasty surgery?

Common objectives of arm lift surgery include:

  • EReduce excess skin on the upper inner arm
  • ETighten the underlying supportive tissue in the upper arm

The conditions treated with an arm lift may develop in both men and women, most often due to a loss of elasticity in the skin and underlying tissue of the upper arm following significant weight loss and skin that has been so stretched it loses the ability to retract. In such cases, the procedure is classified as being medically required, carries an item number and potential rebates. This is clarified after your initial consultation with the surgeon.

An arm lift cannot correct weakened muscles of the upper arm; in fact many individuals who seek surgery are relatively fit individuals who are bothered by skin excess that cannot be reduced through exercise.

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before and four months after brachioplasty with Dr Sharp: this patient also had breast reduction, abdominoplasty and thigh lift surgery to remove excess skin after massive weightloss, while reducing back pain and skin irritations.

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When viewing before and after images, please note they are only indicative of the individual patient’s result and outcomes vary depending on a number of factors including genetics, nutrition, natural body habitus and adherence to post operative instructions. To view scarring, please click here.

Scroll down to read more about Brachioplasty surgery with Dr Sharp, after the image gallery.

before and three months after brachioplasty surgery with Dr Sharp

before and three months after brachioplasty surgery with Dr Sharp

before and three months after brachioplasty surgery with Dr Sharp

before and three months after brachioplasty surgery with Dr Sharp

before and three months after brachioplasty surgery with Dr Sharp


Is an arm lift right for me?

Arm lift surgery is an individualised procedure and may not be suitable for everyone

Arm lifts are not intended strictly for the removal of excess fat. Liposuction alone can remove excess fat deposits where skin has good elasticity and is able to naturally conform to new body contours. In cases where skin elasticity is poor, a combination of liposuction and arm lift techniques may be recommended. In general, good candidates for an arm lift are:

  • Adults of any age whose weight is relatively stable and who are not significantly overweight
  • Healthy individuals who do not have medical conditions that can impair healing or increase risk of surgery
  • Non-smokers
  • Individuals with a positive outlook and realistic goals for what an arm lift can accomplish
  • Individuals committed to leading a healthy lifestyle of proper nutrition and fitness
  • Have excess skin and soft tissue along the upper arm region

What is involved in brachioplasty surgery?

As part of your pre-operative consultation process, Dr Sharp will discuss the location options for your arm lift procedure. In some cases, it can be performed as a day case, meaning you will return home on the same day – with 24/7 access to post-operative support. Or you may choose to have the procedure as an inpatient, with an overnight stay.

An arm lift procedure includes the following steps:

Step 1 – Anaesthesia

Brachioplasty surgery is performed under a general anaesthetic with a specialist anaesthetist meaning you will be asleep during surgery.

Step 2 – The procedure

The procedure begins with an incision placed in the inside of the upper arm. The incision may extend from the underarm to the elbow, or be more limited in length. Incision length and pattern depend on the amount and location of excess skin to be removed.

If fat will be reduced during your arm lift, it will be excised or treated with liposuction techniques. The underlying supportive tissues are tightened and reshaped with internal sutures.

before and after arm lift brachioplasty

Step 3 – Closing the incisions

The overlying skin is then smoothed over the new contour of your arm, with excess skin reduced. Your incisions will be closed with absorbable sutures or stitches that will be removed within one to two weeks following your arm lift.

Step 4 – See the results

The early results of brachioplasty are usually obscured by swelling and bruising. This will take 6 months to subside and scars will take 24 months to mature. 

How do I choose my surgeon?

Brachioplasty surgery is a procedure performed by plastic surgeons in Brisbane, and it carries a low mortality and morbidity rate when performed by an appropriate clinician in an accredited hospital facility. However it is a major procedure – and therefore, choosing the right surgeon is of utmost importance. It should be performed by a qualified plastic surgeon who is registered as a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. You can confirm your surgeon’s credentials here.

Dr David Sharp is a qualified plastic surgeon with a special interest in reconstructive and cosmetic plastic surgery. His personalised approach means that you receive plenty of preoperative time with him to discuss your specific body goals and any questions.

It’s normal to feel both nervous, and an excited sense of anticipation when planning your surgery. Dr David takes the time to ensure you have as many consultations as you require, to ensure your treatment is customised to suit your body and expectations – and address any concerns you may have.

Does arm reduction surgery remove stretch marks?

An arm lift does not correct specifically stretch marks, however, some of these might be removed or reduced if they are located on the excess skin that is removed.

Dr Sharp’s clinic offers a range of safe skin therapies that have been scientifically proven to reduce stretch marks. If you are specifically concerned about stretch marks, call 07 3202 4744.

What kind of anaesthetic will I have?

Brachioplasties are performed under a full general anaesthetic. A specifically selected range of medications are administered during the surgery to ensure your post-operative comfort. Dr Sharp works with an experienced and friendly team of anesthetists.

How much time should I take off work after arm lift surgery?

You must lift nothing over 2kg and refrain from exertion for at least six weeks. If you have sedentary work, you may be able to return to work 2-3 weeks after surgery, but please keep in mind this may not be possible if your recovery is a little slower than hoped. Depending on your work, you may need to time your surgery around your work leave; in this case, it is important to have as much time as possible to plan the surgery and ensure you can book in for the procedure during your required leave period.

Can I do anything to improve arm lift scars?

Scarring is dependent on many factors, but the key ones are:

  • the position of the scar on the body
  • postoperative scar care
  • time since surgery
  • skin type/quality and genetics

Scar position

Scars that are located on parts of the body that are under tension or frequent movement are more likely to be stretched, and thicker. This is why it is important to wear postoperative compression garments after arm surgery and limit movement.

Postoperative scar care

Our patients go home with extensive postoperative instructions. These feature evidence-based, best practice scar care recommendations; when followed, they give patients the best possible scar outcome.

It is therefore essential to wear your support garment correctly (our team are always on hand to clarify if you are unsure of the correct positioning), observe physical activity restrictions, practice good nutrition and only use approved tape/products on incisions for the recommended amount of time. We also advocate for daily scar massage once the incision has healed.

When we see poor scarring in otherwise healthy patients, it is usually because one or more of the above recommendations have not been followed.

For example, failure to wear compression garments properly can place additional pressure on the scar, or result in excessive swelling, haematoma or seroma, which can require further surgery, in turn causing more incisional tension and unfavourable scarring.

Essential oils, bleaching creams or any products not supplied or recommended by the clinic can be detrimental to healing and cause wound breakdown, delayed healing and poor scarring.

Time since surgery

It is inevitable that patients will monitor, observe and worry about their scars most closely during the exact phase of natural scar healing when it is always going to be looking its worst; the first 3-12 months postoperatively. This maturation process takes the scar approximately 24 months in total, so patience is needed in order to see the final result! While it might be annoying to hear ‘be patient’ during this period, it is important to give your body time to fully heal.

Rest assured that if postoperative instructions are closely followed, patients usually find their  scars mature into soft, lightly-coloured scars that are not anywhere near as prominent as they appear to be in the first 3-12 months.

Skin condition, quality or genetics

Some skin types or ethnicities are more predisposed to poor scarring. Sun damaged, aged or thin skin can also scar badly or experience delayed healing. Even if you are genetically predisposed to poor scarring, good scar care can go some way to improving the appearance of the scar.


How much do arm reductions cost?

Potential costs include:

  • Dr Sharp’s fee
  • Anaesthetist fee
  • Assistant’s fee
  • Theatre costs
  • Support garments

Brachioplasty for cosmetic reasons is not covered by Medicare or health insurers. However, in some cases, your surgery might be classified as reconstructive, and therefore have a Medicare item number. If so, you might be eligible to claim a rebate from Medicare, as well as your private health fund.

In these cases, after a consultation with Dr Sharp, an application for pre-approval can be lodged with your health fund – to assist with forward planning your out of pocket expenses.

After your consultation with Dr Sharp, if there’s a possibility that your surgery meets Medicare’s criteria, you will be provided with an item number. We recommend you contact your health insurance provider and ask them if you are covered for plastic surgery, particularly siting the item number provided.

It is important to understand that, in the case of complications or revision surgery, the cost of your brachioplasty might extend to future surgical procedures and hospitalisations. We encourage patients to think about how they would fund further treatment beyond the immediate costs expected.

Arm lift: words to know

  • Arm lift: A surgical procedure, also known as brachioplasty, to correct sagging of the upper arms.
  • Axilla: The underarm area.
  • Brachioplasty: A surgical procedure, also known as arm lift or reduction, to correct sagging and excess skin of upper arms.
  • General anesthesia: Drugs and/or gases used during an operation to relieve pain and alter consciousness.
  • Hematoma: Blood pooling beneath the skin.
  • Intravenous sedation: Sedatives administered by injection into a vein to help you relax.
  • Liposuction: Also called lipoplasty or suction lipectomy, this procedure vacuums out fat from beneath the skin’s surface to reduce fullness.
  • Local anesthesia: A drug injected directly to the site of an incision during an operation to relieve pain.
  • Skin laxity: Degree of loose skin.
  • Sutures: Stitches used by surgeons to hold skin and tissue together.

Arm lift Recovery, Risks & Complications

Like any surgery, you must weigh up whether the benefits out way the risks for you. While brachioplasty surgery is common, it also carries risks. Your pre-operative consultations with Dr Sharp will enable him to discuss potential complications with you, and help you determine whether the surgery is right for you.

Possible complications of surgery in general include:

  • Acute medical event such as stoke, heart attack, pneumonia
  • The need for revision or further surgery
  • Pain which does not respond to pain relief
  • Nerve damage, causing altered sensation or loss of sensation – temporary or permanent
  • Haematoma (collection of blood), oedema (collection of fluid) and abscess
  • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or pulmonary embolisms (PE)
  • Damage or or loss of loose teeth during placement of anaesthetic apparatus
  • Sore throat, swelling or discomfort following placement of breathing tubes during anaesthetic
  • Breathing difficulties following anaesthetic
  • Allergic reaction to medication
  • Allergic reaction to sutures, dressings, tapes or intraoperative solutions
  • Heavy bleeding from the wound, which may require further surgery
  • Poor or slow skin healing, wound infection, breakdown or necrosis (skin death)
  • Wound dehiscence (incision separation)
  • Adverse scarring
  • Psychological impact of surgery, recovery or altered appearance
  • Death

Complications are rare, and Dr Sharp and his team manage each of these risks with the upmost care to further reduce the likelihood of them occurring. In the event they do occur, most can be treated with prompt intervention.

Everyone’s body responds differently to surgery. In some cases, post-operative revision surgery might be required.

Some factors, such as weight, poor nutrition, lifestyle or health problems can increase the chance of a complication occurring. Dr Sharp will take time to learn about your potential risk factors during your pre-operative consultations, and will determine if they are relevant to your surgery.

Arm lift recovery

During your recovery from arm lift surgery, take and compression garments will be applied to your incisions, to minimize swelling following surgery. A small, thin tube may be temporarily placed under the skin to drain any excess blood or fluid. Persistent swelling is one of the more common complications of brachioplasty surgery and the best way to avoid this is to follow your postoperative instructions closely as it is usually linked to over-exertion during the recovery process, something we understand is easy to accidentally do.

You will also be instructed to avoid lifting or bearing any weight on your arms for 6 weeks. Your surgeon may also advise you to limit your range of motion until internal healing is complete.

You will sleep with your arms slightly elevated on pillows; for patients with persistent swelling this could be required for several months.

You will be ready to return to work and very  activities within 1-2 weeks, as long as you do not engage in any lifting or vigorous exercise. Follow all instructions carefully — this is essential to the success of your outcome.

Your incisions will experience oozing initially, which is very normal. Additional healing will continue for many weeks as swelling resolves and incision lines continue to improve. Numbness and a firm feeling over the skin’s surface will resolve over time. You must practice diligent sun protection until the healing process is fully completed or skin in the treated area may develop irregular pigmentation and scars may become raised, red or dark. It may take 2 years for scars to mature.

Dr Sharp will give you specific instructions on post-operative care. These instructions will include:

  • How to care for your surgical sites following surgery
  • Medications to apply or take orally to aid healing and reduce the risk of infection
  • Specific concerns to look for at the surgical sites or in your general health
  • Your post operative appointments

Arm lift Results & Expectations

How to maintain your results

Healthy nutrition and regular physical activity, including core strength exercises and practicing good posture, are integral to obtaining and maintaining optimal long-term brachioplasty results.

Dr Sharp and his team can also medically support your results after arm reduction surgery through the nonsurgical treatments he offers, including Fraxel scar reduction.

Contact our experienced clinicians on 07 3202 4744 to find out what’s possible for you.

Arm lift results and expectations

It is important that the surgical incisions are not subjected to excessive force, swelling, abrasion, or motion during the time of healing.

The surgery comes with visible scars. This must be weighed against the trade-off of having skin removed.

The results of arm lift will be long-lasting, provided that you maintain a stable weight and general fitness. As your body ages, it is natural to lose some firmness. The surgery will not stop the ageing process.

Although good results are expected from your procedure, there is no guarantee. In some situations, it may not be possible to achieve optimal results with a single surgical procedure and another surgery may be necessary.

Significant weight fluctuations after brachioplasty surgery can impact upon the results, so maintaining healthy nutrition habits and exercising is an important part of ensuring you get the best out of your results for as long as possible.

Would you like to know more about an Arm Lift? Contact our friendly patient support team.