My Experience With Arm Lift Surgery: Complications, Before and After Photos, Results
I had lost over 100 pounds all naturally in my late twenties. Due to this rapid weight loss, I was left with lots of loose skin. My biggest problem area was my upper arms. They took the term “bingo arms” to a new level. Over time, I had my extra skin removed through a series of cosmetic procedures. My arms, however, still had excess skin that needed to be removed. Having an arm lift, or a brachioplasty, was definitely on my surgery “wish list,' but there were two other areas of my body I decided to have plastic surgery on first.
I eventually decided it was time to stop putting off my arm lift procedure. I started asking around for recommendations on top plastic surgeons. My son's plastic surgeon, who repaired my son's cleft and did an amazing job, recommended Dr. Rubin, a board certified plastic surgeon who is very experienced with arm lift surgery. Since I think the moon and the stars of my son’s surgeon, I immediately contacted Dr. Rubin’s office to schedule an initial consultation. When I called Dr. Rubin's office, I ended up having a lengthy talk with his office manager, who was very pleasant.
The day of my consultation arrived and I was extremely excited but also nervous. I did not feel comfortable with my 'new body,' despite losing a significant amount of weight. My excess, saggy skin was really dragging down my self-esteem and self-confidence.
As soon as I met Dr. Rubin and his staff, I knew I would be in good hands. He is a very patient, nice and honest. He didn't try to sell me on a procedure I didn't need. During my consultation, we discussed the amount of skin on my upper arms and he explained to me that the majority of it was excess skin and not fatty tissue. He explained what a brachioplasty entailed, including the risks, benefits, what I should expect post-op, recovery period, etc.
After my consultation, I went home and thought about what I had discussed with Dr. Rubin. After mulling it over for a few days, I decided it was something I wanted to have done. I contacted Dr. Rubin's office and scheduled my surgery. I was then sent to have all of the common pre-surgical tests - blood work, etc. Everything came back great and I was ready to get rid of the arm skin that had troubled me since my massive weight loss! It was time for new arms!
The day of my surgery came and I was in the pre-op room doing all the normal pre-op things. Then in came Dr. Rubin and his crew of residents. I removed my hospital gown and he took his time drawing on my arms, marking all the areas that needed to be be excised. He was mapping out where he would make the incisions necessary to successfully perform my arm surgery.
After I was marked up, it was off to the operating room! It wasn't long before the general anesthesia hit me and I was out like a light.
Once I awoke from surgery, I could immediately feel the pain in my muscles and my armpits. To perform the procedure, my surgeon had to cut from the inside of my elbows down past my arm pits. It was very painful afterwards. My pain was handled well by the wonderful nurses who were in the recovery room and some amazing pain meds! Each of my arms had a drain in it to eliminate excess fluid and blood. Each drain is composed of long tubes with a bulb at the end, and it was pain to have them hanging off my arms. Oh well, I guess I couldn't be that angry, since drains are common with many plastic surgery procedures.
had a drain in each one of my arms to help my body drain any excess fluid or blood. The drains are a pain, but unfortunately come along with a lot of cosmetic surgery procedures! Each surgery and person are different, so the length of the drains and the trouble they cause will vary.
I will be very honest here. Out of all of the procedures I've had done (panniculectomy and a breast lift), my arm lift was the main painful and difficult to recover from. You do not realize how much you use the muscles in both your arms and your arm pits, until you experience a lot of discomfort with every single movement! My arms were covered with ace bandages immediately after the procedure, and once my drains were removed, I was switched to a compression garment.
All was going well with my recovery until I started, unintentionally, disobeying the doctor's orders. I was told to consume a large amount of protein, as it is supposed to improve the healing process. I was also instructed not to lift my arms above a certain point and not to do any heavy lifting, etc. Well, with the pain medicine, I didn’t feel like eating, so when I would eat, it would be something unhealthy, like Swedish Fish. Definitely not the healthy protein I was supposed to be eating. Then I recall trying to turn off the lamp beside my bed. The reach was beyond what my body wanted to do at that time, but I kept thinking “just a little bit more…”. Well, trust me, I paid big time for that. My right arm ripped open in multiple places. Nothing the Doctor was overly concerned about, and they weren’t even ripped deep enough to need restitching. However, healing was going slowly and I was just getting more and more rips in my skin! One day I remembered what the Doctor said about protein, so I got some kind of healthy shakes that stated they had a lot of protein in them! Once I started drinking those meal supplement shakes, it was like a magic potion! I began to heal! And heal fast! To this day, I kick myself for not listening to the doctor and his requests for me to consume more protein!
While everything ultimately ended up healing, unfortunately both arms were left with horrible scarring. Keloids, which are the worst kind of scarring. The arm that ripped in multiple places was really bad. It hanged lower than my other arm due to the tearing causing more scarring, causing it to heal with a little additional hanging skin.
Since I had complications from my arm surgery, my recovery time ended up being three months. I lost a lot of my muscle tone during those three months, and I'm currently working on trying to get it back to make my arms look less chubby and more contoured. I was given steroid shots to help reduce the scarring, and they have helped. However, the scars are still very obvious. I would get 10-15 steroid injections in each arm, every couple weeks for 3-4 weeks (three times total). It definitely helped reduce the puffiness of the scars and flatten them down, but they're still visible.
Overall, as mentioned above, out of all of the other cosmetic procedures I've had, this was the most difficult recovery I've had. Having said that, I feel that if I would have listened to the doctor and eaten correctly, while all the complications may not have been avoided, the most common complications likely would have been avoided. I believe I made my recovery more complicated than it had to be.
People ask me all the time if I regret the surgery, since I have these scars now and my arms are definitely not as tight and toned as I wanted, but I don’t regret it at all. Even with the scarring and my arms still appearing chubby, it did remove quite a big of hanging skin. The bat wings I had hated for so long were indeed gone. It's quite funny how before the surgery I would not wear any sleeveless shirts, but now I have no problem doing so, even with the scaring! Hey, I can always make up a cool story as to how I got scarred, right? Haha.
I don’t want to dishearten anyone that is looking to have this procedure done. However, I do want to stress the importance of listening to what your doctor says, even if you think it really won’t make much of a difference. Listen to your body, don’t over do it. Be sure you have enough time to properly heal and relax after a procedure like this, or any procedure for that matter!