The operation always takes place under general anaesthetic and as an in-patient procedure. The usual length of stay in hospital is 4-5 days.
Depending on the extent of the areas that need to be addressed an upper body lift usually involves a combination of these three procedures
- Arm lift (Brachioplasty)
- Mastopexy or breastreduction in females and mastectomy as in large gynecomastia in males
By continuing the skin incision from underneath the breast along the side of the chest towards the back or up towards the armpit, upper back and side rolls can also be corrected.
Both the deep and superficial (skin) sutures are made from absorbable material and do not have to be removed.
Since the wound areas are usually quite large at least one or multiple drains will be placed into the wound through the skin during surgery. These prevent excess wound secretions and blood to accumulate inside the wound cavity, which may cause healing problems. The drains are removed once the output is minimal (usually when less than 30ml/24h).
A binder or compression garment must be worn for 4-6 weeks after surgery day and night to minimize swelling and aid wound healing.
The dressings can usually be left intact after discharge until your first follow-up appointment. You may shower over the dressings, but should not bathe or swim until the wounds have healed.
Every-day activities and light work (e.g. office work), including driving, can usually be resumed about 1-2 weeks after surgery. Lifting heavy objects (including children) and physical activities (sport) should be refrained from for approximately 6 weeks or until all wounds have healed.
Routine follow-up appointments with your surgeon will be at 1-2 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months and 1 year after surgery.
As with every surgical procedure an upper body lift is associated with both anaesthetic and surgical risks. Preexisting conditions such as Diabetes, obesity, heart and blood vessel diseases, immune diseases and smoking significantly increase the risk of complications.
General complications of all surgical procedures include:
Bleeding/Hematoma, infection, thrombosis (including pulmonary embolism)
The most common surgical complications after an upper body lift are:
- delayed wound healing or wound breakdown
- unsightly or asymmetrical scars
- permanent numbness of the skin
- swelling of the arm (lymphedema)
- compromised blood supply to the nipple/areola, in extreme cases loss of the nipple and/or areola
- skin necrosis
Do I need to stop my own medication prior to surgery?
Most medication can be continued normally. Some drugs such as blood thinners (e.g. Aspirin or Warfarin/Marcoumar) can increase the risk of postoperative bleeding and may need to be stopped or replaced before the procedure. We ask you to bring a complete list of all your medication and their dosages to your first consultation.
Does my GP need to perform or organize any special investigations or tests before surgery?
Before any surgery the surgical team including the anaesthetist will need to be aware of any preexisting conditions (especially cardiovascular or lung diseases) which may be associated with an increased anaesthetic risk. Previous abdominal surgery can also pose an increased risk of surgical complications and can have an impact on the surgical strategy and technique. In case of a suspected hernia a CT or ultrasound is usually recommended to assess its size and extent.
We ask you to provide as much detailed information on your past medical history as possible when you come for your preoperative consultation so we can coordinate any necessary tests with your GP.
Do I need to stop smoking before surgery?
We seriously recommend stopping all nicotine consumption, including smoking at least 6 weeks before any surgical procedure. One of the most common complications following any type of surgery is delayed wound healing or wound breakdown. The main cause of this is usually bad blood circulation to the skin and tissues in the operated area. Nicotine is a chemical substance, which causes blood vessels in the body to constrict (narrow). This lowers the blood circulation to the wound and significantly increases the risk of complications.
What happens if my nipple/areola dies off?
Whereas compromised blood supply to the nipple and areola are not uncommon, complete necrosis is very rare. In most cases only the most superficial skin layers are affected by the lack of blood supply and with time and regular wound care most or often all of the affected area will recover. If the nipple/areola do die off completely, the dead tissue will need to be surgically removed. However once all the wounds have healed both a nipple and areola can be reconstructed just like it is done in breast reconstruction.
Are there any activities I won’t be able to do after surgery?
It is usually recommended not to engage in any activities straining the upper body for 4-6 weeks after surgery. These include lifting heavy objects (greater than 20kg) and physical activities such as jogging. Once the healing period is over there are no restrictions.
What happens when I develop a seroma?
A Seroma is a fairly common complication after any operation involving a large wound cavity. The seroma merely a collection of wound secretions and is not dangerous. It can however be quite uncomfortable and cumbersome. Small amounts of fluid can just be left alone until your body absorbs them by it self. Larger fluid collections may need to be drained with a needle. This can be done during a regular consultation and is usually painless. In some cases repeated drainages over a period of a couple of weeks are necessary until the fluid build up stops completely. Kompression garments or an abdominal binder can reduce the risk of seroma formation.
I would also like a lower body lift or thigh lift. Can this be done at the same surgery as the upper body lift?
Technically yes. However due to the extensive wound areas, the operation time, risk of complications and recovery time will be significantly increased.
How long before I can go back to work after surgery?
This depends on your work. Light duties, such as office jobs can usually be resumed after about 2 weeks. Lifting heavy objects and strenuous activities should be refrained from for at least 6 weeks or until all wounds have healed.
Especially if you have small children it is important for you to plan and ensure enough support for their care other household chores during your recovery period.
Will I get a sick certificate for the time I am off work?
Only if the procedure is medically indicated and covered by your health insurance.
You will need to take annual leave for the entire period that you are absent from work it is a purely aesthetic procedure.
Will my health insurance cover the costs for the surgery?
The correction of large excesses of soft tissue, particulary after massive weight loss following bariatric surgery (e.g. gastric bypass or band) are sometimes covered by health insurance. Written confirmation of guaranteed payment by your insurance company must be sought by a medical professional prior to surgery.
Will my health insurance cover the costs of treatment if I develop any complications requiring medical treatment, hospitalization or even further surgery?
Yes, provided the complication is purely medical, e.g. an infection. Corrections of aesthetic complications are not covered.