Upper Arm Lift Procedures Increased 4,000 Percent In Past Decade

Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online

Plastic Surgery, a procedure that has grown in popularity over the past two-to-three decades, is performed for various reasons. Tumor removal, scar repair and breast reduction are among the most popular reasons for men and women to get reconstructive surgery, according to previous data from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).

But new data from the group has shown another form of the surgery has exploded over the last decade. Upper arm lifts have surged more than 4,000 percent in the past 12 years, rising from 300 procedures in 2000, to more than 15,000 last year. The ASPS data shows that the rise in popularity has been fueled partly by the sleeveless fashion trend as well as a bigger focus on strong-armed celebrities.

The majority of arm lift surgeries over the period were for women (98 percent) and mostly for those over 40 years old. Forty-three percent of patients were age 40 to 54 and 33 percent were 55 and older. Overall, 15,136 women got arm lifts in 2011 — a jump of 4,378 percent from 2000. A total of $61 million was spent on just arm lift procedures in 2011.

Most upper arm lifts include liposuction or brachioplasty, where loose skin is removed from the back of the arms.

“Women are paying more attention to their arms in general and are becoming more aware of options to treat this area,” said ASPS President Gregory Evans, MD. “For some women, the arms have always been a troublesome area and, along with proper diet and exercise, liposuction can help refine them. Others may opt for a brachioplasty when there is a fair amount of loose skin present with minimal elasticity.”

While doctors say there is no single reason behind the increase in upper arm lifts, celebrity influence could be a major factor. A recent poll conducted on behalf of the ASPS found that women are paying more attention now to the arms of female celebrities.

According to the poll, the most admired celebrity arms are those of first lady Michelle Obama, actresses Jennifer Aniston, Jessica Biel, Demi Moore and daytime talk show host Kelly Ripa.

“I think we are always affected by the people that we see consistently, either on the big screen or on TV,” said ASPS Public Education Committee Chair David Reath, MD, based in Knoxville, Tennessee. “We see them and think, ‘yeah, I’d like to look like that’.”

Allen Rosen, MD, an ASPS member from Montclair, New Jersey, said in a blog post that “new technologies and techniques have made it more reasonable to treat heavy upper arms, which have driven many patients crazy for years. It is no surprise that procedures to reshape the upper arms have increased over the past 10 years since the science and technology have finally come together to meet this demand.”

Celebrity influence undoubtedly plays a role in women aspiring to look and feel better about themselves, but Dr. Rosen maintains that many women get those arm lifts because diet and exercise often does not transition to tighter arms. Some people retain areas of excess loose skin and fat, even after years of diet and exercise.

In the past, the presence of unsightly arm scars have kept many women from having upper arm lifts. But for those “who undergo massive weight loss have hanging “bat wings” and gladly trade this off for an inner arm scar,” said Dr. Rosen in the blog.

And while the procedure is mostly performed on older patients, Dr. Rosen noted that he has seen many patients from “teens to the elderly,” who have had massive weight loss through diet and exercise, and they want to see those flabby arms go.

With Today´s scar management technology, which includes barbed sutures, fractional laser treatment and silicone-gel sheeting, more and more people are making the move and getter better results with brachioplasty than ever before. However, some scarring may still remain.

Brachioplasty requires an incision from the elbow to the armpit and generally is performed on the back of the arm, which can leave a visibly permanent scar. For many, a scar is much easier to deal with than excess flabby skin, but Dr. Reath cautions patients to weigh out the pros and cons before getting any arm lift.

“It’s a tradeoff. We get rid of the skin, but we leave a scar,” he said in a statement. “So, as long as there’s enough improvement to be made in the shape of the arm to justify the scar, then it’s a great procedure.”

While Dr. Reath maintains the importance of a good diet and lots of exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle, he acknowledges that some women simply cannot achieve that look on their own. For those who want to tighten their upper arms, but do not have excess skin, liposuction is often a better choice than brachioplasty.

Dr. Rosen said that for some patients who have excess arm skin, brachioplasty may not be an option, or they may have been turned down for the surgery. Newer techniques in liposuction are also available which can achieve similar results to brachioplasty. Improved liposuction includes “fat freezing” and “thermal melting,” which reduce fat and give better upper arm tone.

He maintains, however, that the best option for skin tightening is brachioplasty. And with techniques getting “better by the minute,” he noted that more patients can be offered the procedure with less down time and minimal to no scarring.

“The ASPS annual statistics showing the exponential growth of upper arm lifts definitely reflect the result of this “perfect storm” of new technologies/techniques and patient demand,” concluded Dr. Rosen.

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