Aging does not simply affect the skin and tissues of the face, but the body as well – including your arms. While plastic surgeons have long had a full toolbox of surgical and non-surgical procedures for addressing facial and body contouring issues, the arms have been another story.
A brachioplasty, or arm, lift has traditionally been the best option. It allows the surgeon to re-contour your arms, eliminating both loose skin and excess fat. However, it leaves a long, visible incision. For most patients, this kind of scar is a deal breaker, but innovation is the name of the game in plastic surgery.
A couple of new procedures have cropped up over the last several years that rejuvenate the arms without leaving a lengthy scar. Dr. John Q. Cook of Chicago, IL discusses these new arm techniques and why they are a total game changer for his practice.
Is an Arm Lift Right for You?
“[The arms are] a part of plastic surgery that has evolved quite nicely in the last couple of years,” explains Dr. Cook. As time passes, the skin on the arm can get stretched out and hang down a bit, a condition often referred to as “bat wings.” There can also be some extra fat in certain areas of the arm. Many patients are incredibly self-conscious about their arms to the point where they won’t wear certain clothing. Until recently, the only real option for plastic surgeons the brachioplasty, or a surgical arm lift. This procedure, where a plastic surgeon cuts out a whole swatch of skin, removes fat and re-sculpts the arm, is incredibly effective. Even so, it comes at a price: “the price is a very long scar that is relatively conspicuous,” shares Dr. Cook.
This rules out an arm lift for most patients with only mild to moderate looseness in the arms. However, if you are someone who has severe aging in the arms or who has undergone massive weight loss, a brachioplasty is still going to be the procedure of choice. Luckily, there are some modifications to the arm lift that move the scar away from its traditional location in the groove of the bicep to a more discreet location, making it more palatable for many patients.
Liposuction Does Not Address Loose Skin
Many plastic surgeons have tried over the years to treat the arms with regular liposuction. Dr. Cook, however, has always stayed away from this procedure for the arms because he never liked the results. Yes, the surgeon can remove the fat, but afterwards, the patient is left with skin that can be even looser than before surgery. For most patients, this did not ultimately wind up being a good trade-off.
Now, in the era of new arm techniques, liposuction has become powerful thanks to a helpful non-surgical friend. The two treatments Dr. Cook uses quite frequently in his practice:
Minimally Invasive Brachioplasty with SlimLipo®
SlimLipo is a very specific type of liposuction in which a small probe is inserted beneath the skin to emit laser energy. It consists of two different wavelengths of light. One of these wavelengths is excellent at melting fat while the other tightens not the skin, but the little structures that run from the muscles all the way up to the skin. Once the laser portion of the procedure is done, a surgeon will use a cannula, or hollow metal tube, to remove the melted fat.
Although this is surgery, the recovery is pretty fast. You will need to wear a compression garment on the arm and avoid arm exercises for about three weeks. Otherwise, you can get back to your daily life in just a couple of days.
BodyTite™ for Skin Tightening
The second component is a revolutionary new non-surgical skin tightening device known as BodyTite. “[It] is the best way to tighten skin that I’ve ever seen,” explains Dr. Cook. During this minimally-invasive procedure, the surgeon inserts a probe that looks a little bit like a tuning fork through a couple of very small incisions in your arm. One end of the probe goes beneath your skin while the other runs on top of the skin. Directional RF, or radio frequency energy, flows between these two tips. It is extremely effective for tightening the skin.
In the right patient, there can be a 30-40% improvement in the treatment area. Dr. Cook uses it on his arm patients either by itself or in combination with laser liposuction. He finds that, in most cases, he can accomplish the same objective as an arm lift, but with just a couple of small incisions. Furthermore, BodyTite is performed under local anesthesia which is a huge plus for many patients because it makes for a much easier recovery.
While laser liposuction and BodyTite™ are changing the landscape of the arm lift, these new techniques are not right for everybody. “Like any new technique, you have to learn where it’s useful and where it isn’t,” explains Dr. Cook. It is paramount that you see a board certified plastic surgeon who will individualize the procedure “in an intelligent way” for your anatomy, needs and lifestyle.