Reach of Upper Arm Lifts Growing Among US Women

Damian McNamara

April 30, 2013

Raise your arm if you can name a surgical procedure with a greater than 4000% increase in demand in just more than a decade.

It is true for arm lifts. Since 2000, the number of women seeking plastic surgery to improve the appearance of their upper arms increased a whopping 4378%, according to new statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. The society announced the new data as part of an annual report highlighting trends in aesthetic and reconstructive surgeries.

In absolute terms, the number of upper arm lift surgeries skyrocketed from 300 in 2000 to more than 15,000 in 2012. Liposuction and brachioplasty, in which an incision runs between the elbow and armpit to remove excess skin or improve skin laxity, are the most common arm lift strategies. However, not every woman is an appropriate candidate for either procedure. As with any surgery, the benefits and risks must be weighed preoperatively.

Women considering an arm lift should be counseled that a commitment to proper diet and exercise are important accompaniments to surgery. In addition, realistic expectations are in order, particularly with brachioplasty, which often leaves a large scar running up the back of the upper arm. Women without a lot of excessive skin but who want greater toning of their upper arms might opt for liposuction, according to a news release from the society.

Armed with inspiration from First Lady Michelle Obama and actresses Jennifer Aniston, Jessica Biel, and Demi Moore, more and more US women are seeking aesthetic improvement to excessive skin or laxity of their upper arms, according to the report. These famous women top the list of those most admired for their toned upper arms, according to an online Harris Interactive Poll of 1219 adult women in the United States conducted on behalf of the society in March and April 2013.

Overall, women accounted for 91% of the patients undergoing cosmetic plastic surgery in 2012. Their total 12.8 million cosmetic procedures represent a 5% increase compared with 2011, according to the 2012 Plastic Surgery Statistics Report. Cosmetic procedures among men in 2012 likewise grew by 5% to 1.3 million.

Breast augmentation leads the list of the top 5 cosmetic surgical procedures in highest demand overall in 2012, followed by nose reshaping, eyelid surgery, liposuction, and facelifts. Perhaps not surprisingly, botulinum toxin type A leads the list of cosmetic minimally invasive procedures for 2012, followed by soft tissue fillers, chemical peels, laser hair removal, and microdermabrasion.

The ASPS also tracks national statistics for reconstructive plastic surgery procedures. Tumor removal (a total 4.2 million surgeries in 2012) far outstripped the next most common reconstructive surgery types (each with fewer than 300,000 cases last year): laceration repair, maxillofacial surgery, scar revision, and hand surgery.

The full 23-page report highlights annual trends in plastic surgery by age, ethnicity, practice setting, and geographic region. The society also lists average surgeon or physician fees for each procedure. The report can be downloaded from the society Web site.