The Surgeon Minute

The New Minimally-Invasive Arm Lift

The New Minimally-Invasive Arm Lift

Flabby arms can be a major source of embarrassment, especially in warmer climates where tank tops and sleeveless blouses are the norm. Until recently, a surgical arm lift, also known as brachioplasty, was the only reliable option to reshape the arms and remove excess sagging skin. Unfortunately, the trade-off for brachioplasty is an unavoidable and highly visible scar running the inner length of the upper arm from elbow to armpit. “Arm lifting is a procedure that I traditionally avoided doing,” shares Austin-based board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Robert Whitfield. “I thought the scar was too stigmatizing.”

A new technology called BodyTite provides experienced plastic surgeons like Whitfield with an exciting new option for patients who want an arm lift without a big scar. “BodyTite, coupled with liposuction, gives a result that previously could only be achieved with surgical excision,” says Whitfield. Even better? BodyTite is a minimally-invasive arm lift – no surgery required.

Arms: From Fab to Flab

Age, genetics and weight fluctuations all contribute to arms that droop and sag. As the 30’s give way to the 40’s and 50’s, skin that was once tight and toned begins to lose its elasticity and falls victim to the force of gravity.

Loose arm skin.

What Causes Arms to Sag?

  • Genetics
  • Loss of Collagen & Elasticity in Skin
  • Aging
  • Gravity
  • Weight Fluctuations

No matter how often they work out, many aging women simply cannot achieve youthful arms in the gym. Strong muscles remain hidden beneath layers of stubborn, exercise-resistant fat in the upper arms.

Fat Reduction Alone is Not Enough

While liposuction is a great option for reducing unwanted fat, it offers very little in terms of skin tightening. This is especially true in aging patients or patients who have had weight fluctuations.  Age and weight fluctuations both contribute to the loss of elasticity, meaning skin loses its ability to shrink back.

When liposuction is done on arms that have already begun to sag, it can leave the arms looking even more deflated and droopy. If excess fat and excess skin are both concerns, liposuction alone will not be enough to provide the improved shape most patients desire.

BodyTite: A Device that Reliably Tightens Skin

“Finally, we have a tool that actually tightens skin,” says Whitfield of BodyTite. “This is the first tool that I am reliably comfortable with offering a patient. We’ve never actually had anything like this in plastic surgery. ”

To achieve a noticeable tightening effect, BodyTite uses bipolar radiofrequency technology. The device has two parallel probes, one that passes below the skin and the other that passes directly above the skin. The two probes exchange heat, melting fat on the inside while simultaneously causing skin to contract and tighten. This process can be considered a minimally-invasive arm lift as the patient does not require general anesthesia and surgery.

BodyTite - minimally-invasive arm lift.

The internal probe is inserted through a very small incision that can be hidden in the crease at the back of the elbow. “The scar for the actual device should only be three to four millimeters,” explains Whitfield. “That’s less than a centimeter. About the size of your pinky nail, if not smaller.”

Combination Treatment = Fat Reduction + Skin Tightening

For the best results, Dr. Whitfield performs a combination treatment of BodyTite and traditional liposuction. During the liposuction procedure a small metal tube called a cannula is inserted through the same incision that is used for the BodyTite treatment. Excess fat is removed without the need for additional scarring. “It’s a very exciting time to offer procedures where I can combine technologies to improve results and increase patient satisfaction,” says Whitfield.

The combined procedure is done under local anesthesia and recovery is quick when compared to traditional brachioplasty. Patients wear a compression garment for several weeks, but are able to return to most of their regular daily activities right away. 

While some results are visible in as little as one week, the final result may take up to six months to appear as swelling slowly subsides over time.  

Who is a Candidate for the BodyTite Arm Lift?

While the BodyTite minimally-invasive arm lift is a game-changer for the right patient, it is not the solution for everyone looking to reshape their upper arms. There are limits to the amount of fat that can be removed and the amount of skin that can be tightened.

When there is a lot of excess skin, a traditional arm lift, or brachioplasty, may still be the best option. To find out which procedure is right for you, make an appointment to be seen by a board certified plastic surgeon. A surgeon who is experienced with both traditional brachioplasty and BodyTite arm lifts will be familiar with the results you can expect and can recommend a customized plan based on your goals.

“Depending on their weight, their laxity of skin, their surgical history, we will formulate a plan,” explains Whitfield. “The majority of times, it is important to do a combination of BodyTite and liposuction to remove fat and tighten the skin additionally.”

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