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Dr. Barry Eppley

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Surgeon Dr. Barry Eppley

Archive for the ‘brachioplasty’ Category

Different Approaches to Arm Lifts in Extreme Weight Loss Patients

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

Arm lifts or Brachioplasty is a plastic surgery procedure that removes excess skin and fat from the arm. The trade-off for this skin removal and tightening of the upper arm  is a long scar that runs down the arm. This cut out of skin and the resultant scar can be done on either the inside or back of the arm. There are advantages and disadvantages  to either approach and I always leave the decision up to each patient. The arm lift can be done successfully with either approach.

The most common location for the skin and fat cut out for an arm lift is the medial approach on the inside of the arm. In theory, this places the scar on the most hidden part of the arm. That point is debatable in my mind as the scar would only be hidden if your arm is down and by your side. Certainly if you raise your arm and are in short sleeves, the scar is not hidden. A fair amount of skin can be removed with this approach but cutting out too much is a possibility, making for a very tight closure and the likelihood of having wound separation problems after. It is easy to take too much with this approach and a tight closure with the very thin skin on the inside of the arm makes for some wound healing issues which are common.

The other approach for an arm lift is on the back of the arm. The skin and fat cut out and final scar runs down the backside of the arm. In theory, the patient doesn’t see the scar but everyone else does. (at least if they are behind you) I think that more skin can be removed and better arm tightening can be obtained with this approach. My experience is that less wound healing problems occur when the arm lift is done this way, probably because the skin is a little thicker and holds sutures better.

With either approach it is often necessary to extend the skin excision into the armpit and even beyond. This is unique to the extreme weight loss patient. The sagging skin usually extends into the armpit and into the side of the chest.  Either the inside or back of the arm lift approaches can be extended downward  to include this area. By doing so, both approaches run the risk of creating a scar contracture or tight band where it crosses the attachment of the arm skin to the chest skin. This is noticeable only when one raises their arm, particularly above the level of their shoulders or above their heads.

Despite their subtle differences, both the inside and back of the arm approaches to the arm lift are equally effective. One should choose either approach based on which scar location one finds the most acceptable.

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana

Arm Lifts(Brachioplasty) in the Extreme Weight Loss Patient

Monday, November 24th, 2008

The sagging skin that results from extreme weight loss does not spare the upper body, particularly the arms. Flabby upper arm skin, often referred to as ‘bat wings’, is a very troubling problem that makes many affected women wear long sleeves, even in warmer weather. It limits their clothing options and is a frequent source of embarrassment. In my experience it is always in the top two concerns of most extreme weight female patients.

Such an arm problem is a good candidate for an arm contouring procedure known as an arm lift or brachioplasty.This operation removes a large amount of excessive skin and fat from the upper arm. This is a fairly simple operation that causes little to no pain afterwards. The biggest decision for any one considering this procedure is whether they can handle the scar that results from the procedure. Unlike most body contouring plastic surgery procedures where the scars may be fairly well-hidden under clothes, this is a scar which will be visible. For this reason, the decision for some patients can be a difficult one. Is it better to have a flabby arm with no scar or a more tightened arm with a scar? While the temptation is to always assume that the scar may be better, it is important to know that the scars in the arm (in my opinion) are never great. They frequently end up after healing and time to be wider and more raised than we like. While some arm scars can look quite good, many will be simply acceptable in the vast majority of patients. Scars are the arm simply do not do as well, for example, as scars from a tummy tuck or a breast lift. Scar revisions after an arm lift can really make a big difference is problematic arm scars…but that is another operation as well.

There are two types of arm lifts or brachioplasties. A full (extended) and a limited (short scar) arm lift. The difference is in the amount of skin removed and the resultant length of the final scar. In every extreme weight loss patient that I have seen, they all need an extended or the full arm lift due to the amount of skin. While I usually never cross the scar past the elbow, it is almost always necessary to carry the upper part down into the armpit if not further down into the chest wall and back.  The arm lift scar can be placed either on the inside of the arm or on the back of the arm. There are arguments to be made for either scar placement,. neither approach is necessarily better than the other. Both locations of skin and fat removal will do the job.  I leave the scar location decision up to the patient since they are the one who has to live with the final result.

While arm lifts cause very little pain afterwards, they do create some temporary swelling in the hands and forearms. The combination of upper arm skin tightening and circumferential dressings (loosely applied) causes some temporary lymphatic obstruction which resolves in less than a week after surgery. Healing of the incision is sometimes slow in the armpit area and it is not rare to have to drain a seroma in the elbow in the few few weeks after surgery. Beyond these short-term troublesome issues, arm lifts produce good results with a relatively uncomplicated postoperative course.

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana

Combined Armlift and Hysterectomy Surgery at IU Health West Hospital

Monday, February 11th, 2008

Combination Gynecologic and Plastic Surgery Procedure at IU Health West Hospital in Avon, Indiana


As the field of medicine and surgery continues to advance, I am continually amazed at how different surgical procedures are being done, not only during the same surgery, but at exactly the same time. This is of great benefit to the patient and maximizes valuable operating room time and resources.

An example of such a case was on February 12, 2008 at the IU Health West Hospital in Avon, Indiana. A female patient was initially seen by me in Plastic Surgery for contouring of her arms to get rid of the flabby skin that inevitably results after a lot of weight loss.. She required formal arm lifts (brachioplasties) combined with liposuction of the area for improvement. She had a gynecologic issue with heavy bleeding and also needed a hysterectomy. The Gyn surgeon and myself worked out a time when we could do the surgery together. Because the operative fields were at ‘opposite ends’ so to speak, we were also able to work at the same time effectively cutting down the total operative time in half.

I have seen over the years a lot of different combinations of surgeries combined with plastic surgery, but a concurrent hysterectomy-arm lift is a new combination for me. When surgeons work together, patients benefit!

Dr Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana

Dr. Barry EppleyDr. Barry Eppley

Dr. Barry Eppley is an extensively trained plastic and cosmetic surgeon with more than 20 years of surgical experience. He is both a licensed physician and dentist as well as double board-certified in both Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. This training allows him to perform the most complex surgical procedures from cosmetic changes to the face and body to craniofacial surgery. Dr. Eppley has made extensive contributions to plastic surgery starting with the development of several advanced surgical techniques. He is a revered author, lecturer and educator in the field of plastic and cosmetic surgery.

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