Mini Arm Lift and Arm Contouring
Mini Arm Lift: Introduction
A mini arm lift is a body contouring procedure that creates a sleeker arm. The procedure re-sculpts arm tissue and removes loose or saggy excess skin.
Mini arm lifts are one of the most common procedures our NYC patients seek. This makes sense considering how visible New Yorkers’ arms are on a daily basis. From exercise clothes and bathing suits, to slim fitting clothing – our arms are a focal point of our bodies.
Anatomy of the Arm
The aesthetic arm is lean with natural curves that follow the shapes of the muscles in the arm. The large shoulder muscle (deltoid) cups the upper arm and gives a smooth coned shape to the area. Bicep and triceps muscles further contour the arm between the armpit and the elbow.
Exercise can help reduce stretched skin when increased muscle mass occupies the space fat and skin would have been.
The whole arm can be contoured but it is typically best to avoid the front of the upper arm since this is where many nerves and blood vessels are located that provide movement, blood flow, and sensation to the hand.
Skin and Fat in the Arm
We all have a few areas of our bodies where genetics, sun damage, and weight changes are emphasized. In many women these areas are the neck, the arms, the lower abdomen, and the inner thighs.
If you pinch your waist and your arms you will feel that arm skin is much looser and thinner. This is why weight changes, maturity, sun damage, and gravity all dramatically change these areas more than others. Also, fat in these areas tends to be more resistant to diet and exercise.
Mini Arm Lift: Are You a Candidate?
Excess Arm Fat
Patients with excess arm fat are typically younger, have good skin tone, and just happen to have stubborn excess fat. In these cases, my preferred treatment is to perform minimally invasive liposculpting surgery to melt the excess arm fat.
Mild Excess Arm Skin
In these cases I will typically use Plasma skin tightening technology to shrink wrap the skin from the inside. We are not cutting or removing skin but patients should get a nice tight result for several years, and without the downtime and scars that go along with arm lift procedures.
Moderate Excess Skin
These cases I tend to suggest patients have a mini arm lift. A lot of patients are concerned about any scarring even if the scars are hidden in the armpit. So we will frequently use Vaser technology to melt all of the fat than power assisted liposuction which allows me to use small cannulas to remove the fat (being gentler with the tissues causes less scarring and downtime) and than plasma skin tightening technology. If after 6 months or so the patient would like some more tightening we can remove some extra skin in the office under local anesthetic. Many people are ok with scars after they maximized the scarless options.
Excess Skin and Fat
These patients will typically have my signature mini arm lift procedure.
Weight Loss Patients
When patients lose over 75lbs I have found that they still require a traditional full length arm lift for dramatic results. That being said I have performed mini arm lifts on weight loss patients who had realistic expectations for their results and chose less dramatic change over longer scars. The full length arm lift is still a very dependable and useful procedure in the proper patient.
Mini Arm Lift Procedure Sequence by Dr. Neinstein
I typically perform mini arm lift procedures under general anesthetic at my accredited operating room in NYC, but if a patient is the right candidate it can be done under local anesthetic.
- Marking- Marking is essential to any procedure. Before surgery I outline with the patient the areas of liposuction and the anticipated area of skin removal. The scar is designed to be a short “u” in the depth of the armpit. I ask the patient to put their arms out to 90 degrees and gently bring the arms down. The first point of skin contact the body is usually about where I make the apex of the skin removal area. The skin removal design looks like a half moon. I only mark this for landmarks as we double and triple check in the operating room to make sure we remove as much skin as we can, safely. If too much skin is removed the patient is at risk for a wound healing problem, or a poor scar as tension can pull a healing scar apart giving it a wide appearance
- After the induction of anesthesia I place numbing fluid into the areas to be treated which includes the areas of liposuction and the area of skin removal
- I use Vaser ultrasound technology to liquefy all of the fat in the area to ensure a smooth and easy fat removal
- One specific area I am very interested in fat removal is the upper outer part of the arm. I have designed curved cannulas that curve around the corner. This dramatically helps with the aesthetics of the arm
- I than perform gentle but aggressive liposuction/fat removal with small cannulas. I want to be aggressive because I want to really loosen the skin up to ensure I can get out as much as I can in the armpit
- At this point I do something called tailor tacking. I put the arm at the exact tension I feel is ideal and temporarily suture the skin. This allows me to redraw the markings for skin removal to be safe and meticulous.
- The skin is removed and sewn in multiple layers with dissolving sutures to give the best scar possible. No drains are placed
- The signature key step is to now use plasma technology on the remaining skin. I feel this technology allows the conversion in many patients from a full arm lift to a mini arm lift.
- A bandage is placed over the incision and a compression garment is applied to the arms
What Makes Dr. Neinstein’s Mini Arm Lift Different?
Many surgeons still rely simply on the full arm lift for any excess skin in the arm. They are unwilling to invest in the technology needed to optimize the mini arm lift procedure, as it is truly a blend of technology and technique. Many surgeons also find the positioning and sewing part of this procedure cumbersome and challenging, given you are performing the operation around corners in the armpit.
With the advent of sophisticated liposuction technology such as Vaser ultrasound energy for smooth fat melting and Plasma skin tightening for internal shrink wrapping I now have a broad spectrum of options to offer patients. Multiple procedures allows patients to find the one that suits them best. I always tell people that if 5 people come in with the same arms we may do 5 different operations. This is because all procedures are a balance of scar, anesthesia, and downtime tolerance. I have also designed custom made cannulas that allow me to get around corners which means I can do most of these procedures through the armpit which leaves a hidden or completely faded scar. The elbow liposuction access point is rarely used anymore as I don’t like when patients have two dark dots on the back of their elbows because this can be noticed from behind at social gatherings.
Passion & Experience
Arm contouring is a blend of art and science. Anyone seeking arm contouring from arm liposuction to mini or full arm lifts should seek a surgeon with a passion for this procedure. It requires a lot of technology, techniques, instruments, and most of all judgment. We all want our patients to be happy and we need to really understand the unique anatomy and goals of each patient and make sure the option we pick will meet their realistic expectations.
With more and more of us becoming focused on health and wellness there is a consistent demand for less invasive procedures that still have predictable dramatic results. People want less downtime and less obvious scars as they continue to spend more time in health and wellness activities and more revealing clothing.
Recovery from a Mini Arm Lift
Most patients will take pain medication for 2-3 days and antibiotics for 5 days. We ask patients take a few days off work but they may use the phone and computer the next day.
Given the use of two forms of energy and the skin removal I ask patients to wear the garment for a full month under there clothes as there is more swelling in the cases compared to energy based liposuction alone. I ask patients not to raise their arms above the shoulders for a month after surgery to prevent putting tension on the incision.
Patients may shower the day after surgery and apply bacitracin ointment on the incision for a week. After a week they can switch to silicone based gels to enhance scar healing. Patients see results but right away but full results take a few months as the body prunes away scar tissue and the collagen bundles tighten and reorganize.
All surgery just like everything in life has potential for complications. Luckily elective cosmetic surgery is incredibly safe and this procedure is one of the safest.
We give antibiotics to prevent infection and use meticulous technique to ensure a well healed, well placed, thin scar. There is always a small risk of wound healing problems and infection. Blood clots are incredibly rare in these cases and I personally and carefully screen each and every patient for a personal or family history of blood clots.