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Study: 'Arm Lift' Plastic Surgery Generally Safe

But nerve damage did occur in 5% of cases, researchers say

MONDAY, May 9, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- A type of plastic surgery to remove excess skin and fat from the upper arm is generally safe, with only minor complications occurring in about 25 percent of cases, researchers report.

However, isolated cases of nerve damage have occurred, they added.

"We concluded that an arm lift is a safe procedure, but there are complications associated with it that surgeons and patients should be aware of," lead investigator and Mayo Clinic plastic surgeon Dr. James Knoetgen III said in a prepared statement.

In their study, Knoetgen's team of plastic surgeons investigated complications in 40 female patients with arm lift surgeries.

They found that 10 percent experienced fluid collections under the skin, another 10 percent had poor scarring, 7.5 percent suffered skin infection, 7.5 percent had wound separation, and 2.5 percent developed abscesses under the skin.

Five percent of the patients suffered nerve injuries: one patient experienced prolonged numbness in the forearm and hand, and another patient developed pain in one forearm and hand.

"Overall, the complication rate is relatively low, and the large majority of complications are minor. The only concerning complication we encountered in our study was injury to or irritation of sensory nerves in the arm that can cause numbness in the forearms and, rarely, pain in the hand and forearm," Knoetgen said.

In 2004, there were 9,955 arm lifts performed in the United States -- 4 percent on males and 96 percent on females, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

More information

The Cleveland Clinic Foundation has more about cosmetic surgery.

SOURCE: Mayo Clinic, news release, May 9, 2005
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