What is an arm lift (brachioplasty)?

Significant amounts of excess or hanging skin in the upper arms (also called “bat wings”) are most commonly the result of a large amount of weight loss. The skin excess can be embarrassing, especially when short sleeve shirts are worn. Unfortunately, no amount of exercise will make this skin go away. Exercise tones muscles but doesn’t shrink skin. Additional weight loss will only add to the skin excess.

The only real answer to this problem is surgical removal of the extra skin through an incision running the length of the upper arm from armpit to elbow. The length of the incision is dictated by the amount of extra skin. The scar is placed on the inner side of your arm. In cases of a large amount of skin, the incision may extend onto the chest.

Why choose us?

When considering arm lift, choose a surgeon with significant experience performing the procedure. Friends, family members or an internist or primary care provider are often helpful in suggesting the best surgeon. 

For the best results, choose a cosmetic surgeon who’s affiliated with a major medical center, such as Cleveland Clinic. Make sure to ask your cosmetic surgeon about their credentials, training and how many procedures they’ve performed. 

Learn more about Cleveland Clinic Cosmetic & Plastic Surgery Center.

Before & After Photos

Before & After Photos

How to Prepare

How to Prepare

Am I a candidate for an arm lift/brachioplasty?

If the underside of your upper arms is sagging or appears loose and full due to excess skin, this procedure may be right for you. Thin people may also have sagging upper arms due to the effects of prior weight loss, aging and genetics. Even regular exercise and strength training can’t get rid of excess sagging skin in this area; exercise can tone and tighten muscles but can’t tighten skin.

Good candidates for an arm lift include:

  • Adults with significant upper arm skin excess and laxity.
  • Adults of any age whose weights are relatively stable and who aren’t significantly overweight.
  • Healthy people who don’t have medical conditions that can impair healing or increase risks of surgery.
  • People with a positive outlook and realistic expectations.

The best way to determine if you’re a candidate for this procedure is through a consultation with a plastic surgeon at Cleveland Clinic Cosmetic & Plastic Surgery Center.

How do I prepare for an arm lift/brachioplasty?

Preparing for your arm lift surgery at Cleveland Clinic Cosmetic & Plastic Surgery Center will include discussing several questions about your health, desires and lifestyle with your plastic surgeon, including:

  • Why you want the procedure, your expectations and desired outcome.
  • Your medical conditions, drug allergies and medical treatments.
  • Your use of current medications, vitamins, herbal supplements, alcohol, tobacco and drugs.

Your Cleveland Clinic plastic surgeon will also:

  • Evaluate your general health and any preexisting health conditions or risk factors.
  • Examine and measure your body, recording detailed measurements and taking photos for your medical record.
  • Ask you to stop taking aspirin-containing products for two weeks before surgery.
  • Ask you to stop smoking for at least two weeks before surgery.
What to Expect

What to Expect

How is an arm lift/brachioplasty performed?

An arm lift at Cleveland Clinic Cosmetic & Plastic Surgery Center is generally a procedure done in an outpatient setting. The procedure typically takes one to two hours but may take longer depending on the extent of the surgery and any additional procedures performed at the same time (such as liposuction).

To perform the arm lift surgery, your plastic surgeon will make incisions on the inside or back of your arm. Incisions may span from your underarm to just above your elbow depending on the amount of excess skin. Some people who’ve lost a significant amount of weight after bariatric surgery may have more excess skin and will need an incision that runs from the elbow along the arm pit to the side of the chest.

Before the incision is made, your plastic surgeon may use liposuction to remove excess fat. They then remove, tighten and suture excess skin into place with deep sutures that are absorbable. Your surgeon may also use sutures in the skin that’ll need to be removed within one to two weeks after surgery.



What results can I expect?

The results of arm lift surgery will be long-lasting, provided that you maintain a stable weight and general fitness. As your body ages, it’s natural to lose some firmness in your arms, but most of your improvement from surgery should be relatively permanent.

Many patients who have an arm lift may also consider other body contouring procedures, such as tummy tuck, thigh lift or body lift. Following up with a plastic surgeon at Cleveland Clinic Cosmetic & Plastic Surgery Center is the best way to ensure long-lasting results from your procedure.

What is involved in recovery?

Following your arm lift surgery, dressings or bandages will be applied to your incisions, and your arms may be wrapped in an elastic bandage or a compression garment to minimize swelling. You may have a small, thin tube temporarily placed under your skin to drain any excess blood or fluid that may collect.

Recovery may include some mild discomfort right after the procedure. It’s normal for some swelling and bruising to occur, with most swelling peaking two to three days after your arm lift surgery and subsiding within two weeks. By elevating your arm with pillows, you can reduce swelling and increase comfort during recovery. View our arm lift before and after photos to see results from actual patients.

Is an arm lift/brachioplasty safe?

All surgical procedures carry some risk. Possible side effects from arm lift surgery include:

  • Swelling.
  • Bruising.
  • Scarring.
  • Loss of sensation.
  • Bleeding (hematoma).
  • Swelling of the hands.
  • Seromas (fluid filled masses along the incision line).
Insurance & Financing

Insurance & Financing

Insurance rarely covers the cost of elective cosmetic surgery and procedures. Please call 216.444.4004 and ask to speak with one of our financial representatives who can explain payment options, including CareCredit financing.