What to Expect from Your Arm Lift Recovery - And How Your Scars Will Heal By Benjamin J Boudreaux M.D. on October 28, 2014

A woman showing the contours of her upper armBefore our New Orleans patients decide on any surgery, we encourage them to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of the potential procedure. After all, the most satisfied patients are those who fully understand what to expect, and have made an informed decision regarding treatment. This also means knowing what to expect throughout the recovery period afterward, including any scars that are likely to remain indefinitely.

When it comes to an arm lift, many patients see a clear benefit: slimmer, well defined arms that better complement the body. But before deciding to undergo arm lift surgery, familiarize yourself with the recovery and its common side effects. While the results may still be worth it in the long run, take a moment to form accurate expectations about the post-surgical healing process. 

Side Effects during Recovery

Immediately after surgery, the upper arms will be wrapped in bandages, and a compression garment will further cover the area to prevent infection and promote efficient healing. Small drainage tubes may also be inserted temporarily to reduce fluid build-up, which will be removed in the following day or two. If bleeding persists past the first day, contact your doctor for additional instructions.

As you head into the early stages of recovery, you can expect a few common side effects from surgery, namely:

  • Discomfort: The incisions and damaged tissues from surgery will result in some pain throughout the first few days, turning into generalized soreness as tissues heal. You will be prescribed painkilling medication, which should greatly minimize discomfort early on, until you can manage pain with over-the-counter medication.
  • Bruising: Blood cells will have been ruptured during the arm lift, likely resulting in bruises along the surgical area. This discoloration will begin to fade by the end of the first week, and is a natural part of the healing process.
  • Swelling: Nearly all surgery results in some level of swelling, which continues over the first three days and does not noticeably recede until after the first week or two. With proper rest and nutrition, swelling should continue to disappear over the following weeks, and the results of your arm lift will become increasingly visible.
  • Tightness: As the muscles adjust to their new contours and surrounding tissues heal in place, the arm may feel tighter than usual. As long as pain and other effects continue to decline, this should not be a particular cause for concern.
  • Numbness: When any large area of tissue is damaged, it is possible for nerves to be temporarily damaged as well. If parts of your arm feel numb, it is most likely temporary and should be expected to fade in time.

How Long Does Recovery Last?

Everyone takes different lengths of time to recover after surgery. Depending on one’s body type, health, and surgical technique used, the bulk of healing may take anywhere from one to three weeks. In many cases, patients are able to resume most of their daily activities within the first week, assuming they are not partaking in any strenuous activities or exercise. For smaller procedures and relatively fast healers, exercises may be resumed within two weeks.

Of course, even if the incisions are healed and patients feel well, that does not mean the body has completely recovered. Swelling will continue to go down and scars become less visible in the following weeks and months, leading to better aesthetic results. In general, patients are advised to withhold judgment of their results for at least the first month, as their arms’ muscle, fat, and skin gradually improve in appearance.

What About Scarring?

Scarring is a worthwhile consideration for patients, especially since the procedure is meant for cosmetic improvement. Admittedly, all arm lifts leave some visible scarring, so the real question is where this scarring is limited to and how well a patient recovers from it. First, patients should consider their own history with scarring; if someone has a history of hypertrophic or keloid scarring, the results may not be worth it. Conversely, patients with healthy skin whose past scars are barely visible are excellent candidates. 

Next, patients should consider the type of arm lift they plan to undergo, as the location and length of the incision are key factors:

  • Full arm lift: Traditional arm lift surgery, which comprises the bulk of arm lifts, utilizes an incision from the armpit down to the elbow. As a result, patients are left with a scar along the underside of their upper arms. Although the scar will fade in time, its relative visibility should be weighed against the positive effects of the lift.
  • Mini arm lift: Patients seeking a smaller lift will only need an incision within the armpit, resulting in scars that are much more easily concealed. Although this makes scarring far less of a concern, not all patients are good candidates for a mini lift.   

Is an Arm Lift Right for You?

Any body contouring procedure should be carefully scrutinized with the input and assistance of an experienced plastic surgeon. To learn whether an arm lift or alternative procedure is well suited for your cosmetic goals, schedule a consultation with Dr. Boudreaux today

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