Each year as the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) releases the procedure statistics from the previous year, they look for some procedures where there has been a change in what’s being done, and perhaps a story to go with it. This year one of the operations we are talking about is the Arm lift, or Brachioplasty, because there has been a real increase both last year, and in the previous ten years. In fact, the increase since 2001 has been over 4400% — quite a jump.
So when the ASPS decided to feature Brachioplasties in the news articles coming out today, they asked me if I had a patient who had this operation last year and who would have a interesting story. And I did….Natalie. During the last week or so, Natalie and I have had some time in front of the camera and talking to news outlets about her story and about this operation. In fact, you can see her featured in USA Today this morning.
Several years ago, Natalie was morbidly obese, weighing in the high 300’s. It occurred to her that she was heading down the road towards some really big health issues like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and stroke if she didn’t make a change. And that’s what she did. She lost 180 pounds with the help of Weight Watchers and her exercise of choice: Zumba Fitness Class. Let me repeat: 180 pounds of weight loss with diet and exercise alone! When the reporter from NBC News who was interviewing her heard this, she said, “My jaw is on the floor.” Natalie lost about another person.
For those of you who may not be familiar with what a brachioplasty is, let me give you a little background. The goal of the operation is to remove excess skin and underlying fat from the upper arm. Most, but not all, of the patients we see for this have had significant weight loss which leaves them with a lot of excess skin of the upper arm, not too affectionately referred to as “bat wings.” These are well treated with this operation but there is a scar that runs the length of the upper arm. There has to be enough skin to make the operation and the resultant scar worth it. And Natalie was just such a patient.
One of questions that I have been asked about this is why there has been such an increase in this particular operation. When looking at the trends in operations since 2001, the only other operation that has seen as much of an increase has been body lifts (up over 3300% in the same time period). Both of these operations are done on people who have had massive weight loss. As we are seeing more and more people who have been successful with weight reduction, we are seeing more and more people having these operations done.
Brachioplasty has also gotten something of a boost from prominent people, particular women, with well-toned upper arms: our buff first lady, Michelle Obama, for example.
While it is fun for me to have some on camera facetime and fielding questions from reporters who will release their stories this week, the real star of this show is Natalie. In addition to having had such an incredible weight reduction and being a model patient in terms of her recovery and result, she is a really beautiful person. Her smile is just a big as she used to be, and her personality is charming and engaging. But it’s her down to earth nature that makes her such a great person to tell this story. If Natalie can do this, so can so many other people. In my book, Natalie is a definite rock star!
So, thanks to Natalie, we are able to tell the story behind this operation and why it is increasingly popular.
All the best,
David B. Reath, MD
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