Arm lift

Patients who desire arm rejuvenation usually have significant loose skin – even if the rest of your arm is toned and fit, the loose skin seems to have a mind of its own and just hangs there when lift your arms. This can make it difficult to find well-fitting shirts or dresses with sleeves. It can also disproportionately age your appearance. An arm lift procedure removes this excess skin using an incision on the inside of the arm. The incisions are generally placed from the armpit to the elbow, but occasionally a shorter incision hidden almost completely in the armpit can be used instead. As with the thigh lift, patients often choose to have other procedures such as a tummy tuck and breast lift performed first, and then proceed to the arm lift as a second surgery.

Dr. Purushottam Nagarkar, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Plano and Frisco
Dr. Nagarkar on the arm lift:

Of all the body contouring procedures in plastic surgery, arm lifts have the most visible scars.
Even with a perfectly positioned scar, if you are wearing a sleeveless top, or even just half-sleeves, the scar will be visible. In addition, arm scars tend to take longer to settle down into their final appearance, probably because the arms are constantly moving and so the scars are more stressed. The procedure itself works very well and improves the shape of the arm tremendously, but it is important that patients understand what the scar will look like.

Who is a good candidate for a arm lift:

Most patients without any major medical problems can be good candidates for an arm lift. The arm lift is not a weight loss procedure, so the best candidates are patients who are at a stable goal weight, and have loose and excess skin in the upper arm.

How to prepare for surgery:

Dr. Nagarkar will let you know if any laboratory tests are required before your surgery. If you are a smoker, you must completely stop smoking and refrain from any nicotine-containing smoking cessation aids (such as patches or gums) for 6 weeks before and after surgery. This is critical as smoking increases the risk of significant complications. Finally, you will discuss with Dr. Nagarkar which medications and supplements you should stop taking before surgery, and which ones you can continue. It is very important to provide complete information to prevent any post-operative problems. You will get detailed written instructions for pre- and post-operative care. In addition, you will receive any postoperative prescriptions you might need so that you can have them filled by your pharmacy in advance.

What to expect on the day of surgery:

Arm lift procedures require around 2 to 3 hours. You should plan on having nothing to eat or drink after midnight the night before surgery. If you are having other procedures performed at the same time, you may stay overnight at the hospital for observation. You will need to have someone drive you to and from the surgery, and to help around the house for a few days while you get your energy back.

What to expect after surgery:


Your surgery is designed and performed to achieve the best possible result and as close to 100% symmetry as possible on the operating table. In the first 48 hours after surgery, significant swelling occurs, and this is often asymmetric in nature. Swelling will resolve slowly over the course of 2 to 3 months. Scars will initially appear red and raised, and will require over a year to completely settle down into their final appearance.

The first few days

The first night after surgery, it is critical that you are up and out of bed and walking, to reduce the risk of forming blood clots in your legs. Dr. Nagarkar will call you the day after you go home to check in with you and to answer any questions you might have.


Narcotic pain medications are usually only needed for the first few days after surgery. Afterwards, anti-inflammatory over the counter medications like Tylenol and Ibuprofen are adequate.

Incision care

Your incisions will be closed with absorbable sutures. You can generally start showering after your surgical drains have been removed. Until then, you should take sponge baths. You will have a special garment with foam inserts that supports your arm incisions. You should wear this garment night and day for the first 2 weeks after surgery.


Most patients require drains (little plastic tubes to remove any fluid that collects underneath the skin) that are placed during surgery – these drains are removed 7 to 10 days after surgery, in the office. Before you are discharged from the hospital, we will show you how to take care of these drains at home.


You can return to your regular diet after surgery, but for the first day or two, stick with lighter meals. Anesthesia can sometimes make your digestive system a bit sensitive, and having a double cheeseburger the evening after surgery is not recommended. You should refrain from high-sodium foods because these will prolong the time required for your swelling to resolve.


Most patients will require two weeks or so off work.


You will be able to go back to non-strenuous activities such as walking, using a computer, writing, and so on, immediately after surgery.


You can resume driving once you are no longer taking narcotic medications, and when you feel that you are in full control of your car. This often takes a week or two.


Aerobic exercise such as yoga, running, cycling, barre, etc., must be stopped for 3 weeks to allow the skin to heal. You should not lift anything over 10 lbs for the first 3 weeks.

Follow-up visits

You will see Dr. Nagarkar in the office usually 7 – 10 days after surgery to examine the incisions and ensure that you are healing appropriately. We will see you again at the 4-6 week mark at which time Dr. Nagarkar may clear you from any activity restrictions if you are healing appropriately. Finally you will have appointments around 3 months, 6 months and 1 year after surgery.

To meet Dr. Nagarkar in person, schedule your consultation or call us.