Getting Rid of Underarm Flab aka 'Batwings'

In this day and age, more and more people are wanting to be healthy and lose weight. However, not all of us can effectively lose the weight by exercise and dieting alone. Many people opt for bariatric surgery, which helps the patient effectively lose mass amounts of body weight fast. Unfortunately, the majority of us do not have elastic skin that will bounce back to contour the shape of our bodies. Age also aids in the process of sagging skin, particularly, in the upper arms. Often the solution is an arm skin tightening procedure known as arm lifts (brachioplasty).

According to Coconut Grove, Fla., plastic surgeon Randy Miller, MD, “Women are more prone to upper arm sagging, and this may be because of a fundamental difference between female and male skin. Women have fewer fibrous attachments connecting the skin to the fascia above the muscle, and this may have to do with muscle development.”

People have recently noticed lose skin being a problem within themselves after weight loss or aging, therefore turning to cosmetic surgery. Sometimes having loose skin in the upper arms may be the cause of rashes or difficulty finding clothes that fit. Often the solution is an arm skin tightening procedure known as arm lifts (brachioplasty). Brachioplasty gives the arms a smoother more toned appearance. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, there were 19,000 procedures performed in 2011, versus 400 a decade ago. Patients who opt for this surgery are usually aging women between 50 and 80. Also, since the demand for bariatric surgery has increased so has the demand for arm lift surgery. “Prior to safe, effective weight loss surgery, brachioplasty was uncommon,” says cosmetic surgeon Robert Jackson, MD, of Marion, IN, located in the Indianapolis, IN metro area. “But with patients losing 50 percent of their BMI or more, we have many coming in complaining about their arms.” BMI is the body mass index, which is a measurement of fat and muscle mass in the human body.

Brachioplasty is generally an invasive procedure that requires an incision that typically runs from the elbow to the armpit. Patients who have lost a significant amount of weight may require the incision to extend to the side of the chest. If minimal skin is needed to be tightened, a patient may benefit from a shorter incision. Dr. Jackson explains, “Younger patients with excess fat and minimal skin laxity are generally good candidates for liposuction alone”, he says. Some of these patients may benefit from laser liposuction, as liposuction eliminates the fat; the laser heats the skin to tighten it.

This procedure is performed under local or general anesthesia. The surgeon makes an incision along the inside of the upper arm, in hopes the incision would not be as noticeable, all the way to where the arm meets the body. He or she will then remove the excess skin. Liposuction is used in conjunction with this method if excess fat is a concerned. To avoid noticeable scars it is critical to follow the surgeon’s advice and plan accordingly. Your surgeon most likely will instruct you to wear a compression garment for up to a week. Patients will experience a little discomfort or pain for at the most five days. A cool pack or Tylenol can comfort this. There will be slight bruising and swelling which will subside in about two weeks. Patients can expect to go back to normal activities in six weeks.

According to Dr. Jackson, the ideal candidate should be at a stable weight and have less than 30 percent BMI. “They should have no medical issues that can affect the outcome, they should not smoke, and their nutritional status should be good,” he says. Bariatric patients should consider this because they need to ingest 50 grams of protein a day. This is extremely important for the healing process. It is also very important that the patient communicates with their surgeon, is educated on the outcome of the surgery, and have realistic expectations.

Robert Jackson, MD, is a board-certified cosmetic surgeon in Marion, IN, located in the Indianapolis, IN metro area. Dr. Jackson is a member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery, the American Board of Surgery and the American College of Surgeons.

To make an appointment or find out if this is the right procedure for you contact Dr. Robert Jackson or plastic surgery doctors in your area.