April 4, 2006 -- Tricia Heiser, 34, lost more than 80 pounds two years ago. Although she worked out with a personal trainer daily and slimmed down from a size 1X blouse to a medium, her flabby arms remained a source of embarrassment.
"I want to wear strapless dresses and spaghetti straps and bathing suits and feel comfortable," she said. "I think I like the winter season better because I can wear long sleeves and cover it up. But when summer comes around, you usually don't have a choice."
Heiser's problem is not uncommon. No matter how hard they work out, thousands of American women suffer from drooping arms, particularly in their 40s and 50s, when skin loses its elasticity.
Not so long ago, the only surgery available to remedy sagging arms left an unseemly scar on a woman's arm. Thanks to new technology, that's no longer the case.
Cosmetic surgeons say they're seeing a dramatic increase in the number of requests for arm lifts, the procedure designed to relieve drooping arms. Between 1997 and 2005, the number of arm lifts performed in the United States increased by 533 percent.
A Pound of Fat
Lawrence Reed has performed these state-of-the-art arm lifts. He operated on Heiser.
After creating a small incision in both of a patient's arms, Reed first removes all fat from the arms through liposuction. In Heiser's case, he removed nearly a pound of fat from each arm.
He then pulls the excess skin up toward the shoulder and closes the wound deep inside the armpit so that it's virtually invisible after it heals.
The surgery usually takes 90 minutes and costs anywhere from $8,000 to $15,000. The patient cannot raise her arms for at least five weeks after the surgery.
Reed said after Heiser's surgery: "She could definitely wear short sleeves, very short sleeves in just a week or so."
Six months to eight months after the surgery, Reed said he expected Heiser's arms to become even firmer and more youthful in appearance.
Unlike years past, Heiser said she's looking forward to wearing summer clothes this year. "I always go to the beach for a week each summer, so that will be more exciting. I'll enjoy my beach pictures more I think this year than any other year … with my new arms."