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Benefits, risks of surgery to get toned arms

April 29, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
From the red carpet to the White House, bare beautiful arms are a sought after accessory. It's no wonder arm-lift surgery in women has sky-rocketed to an increase of more than 4,000 percent.

Board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Gordon Sasaki says he's seen a huge increase in his own practice. Besides women coveting celebrity arms, he also credits the meteoric increase to the rise in weight-loss surgery.

"I think with bariatric surgery, one is removing the fat, but one is not removing the skin," Sasaki said.

One method for an arm lift, or brachioplasty, requires an incision from the armpit to the elbow to remove excess skin and fat. This often leaves a scar, but Sasaki says an experienced surgeon can minimize that.

"Today, we have so many ways of anchoring tissues, whether it's by special sutures, so that we do not get the scar to become widened or thickened," he said.

But if a patient's skin has enough elasticity, Sasaki says they may be a candidate for a less invasive procedure like liposuction.

"Taking out the volume but allowing the skin to accommodate," Sasaki said.

Another option is an axillary resection: Loose skin and fat is removed through a smaller incision in the underarm.

"It is up to the surgeon and the patient to decide what is best for the patient," Sasaki said.

Besides the potential for scarring, Sasaki says there are other side effects that patients need to be aware of.

"There can be problems with what we call scar contracture, where things start to shorten, and the patient has a difficult time raising their arms, and there is a possibility of damage to deeper structures, such as the nerves and the vessels," Sasaki said.

Sasaki says it's rare to run into these problems with an experienced doctor. The average cost is about $4,500 for both arms. Experts suggest looking for someone who is board certified and has good referrals. And ask a lot of questions.


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