By Robert Preidt
MONDAY, April 29 (HealthDay News) -- More women are getting arm lifts, according to newly released statistics, with the number growing from about 300 procedures in 2000 to about 15,000 in 2012.
This type of cosmetic procedure can include removal of fat by liposuction or surgery called brachioplasty, in which loose skin is removed from the back of the arms.
The rise is being driven by sleeveless fashions and celebrities -- including first lady Michelle Obama -- who have ultra-toned arms, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).
There were nearly 15,500 arm-lift procedures done in the United States last year, an increase of 3 percent from 2011. Women accounted for 98 percent of the arm lifts in 2012.
Arm lifts are most popular among people over age 40. Last year, 43 percent of patients were aged 40 to 54, while 33 percent were over age 55. The average cost is nearly $4,000 and the total spent on arm lifts in 2012 was $61 million, according to the ASPS.
"Women are paying more attention to their arms in general and are becoming more aware of options to treat this area," ASPS president Dr. Gregory Evans said in a society news release. "For some women, the arms have always been a troublesome area and, along with proper diet and exercise, liposuction can help refine them. Others may opt for a brachioplasty when there is a fair amount of loose skin present with minimal elasticity."
People need to carefully consider the pros and cons of having an arm lift, particularly a brachioplasty, said Dr. David Reath, chairman of the ASPS public education committee.
"It's a trade-off. We get rid of the skin, but we leave a scar," Reath said in the news release. "As long as there's enough improvement to be made in the shape of the arm to justify the scar, then it's a great procedure."
Another expert offered an explanation for the trend.
"I'm not surprised by these numbers, given that I work in a bariatric practice (where we perform over 450 weight-loss surgery cases per year)," said Sharon Zarabi, a nutritionist and fitness trainer at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "Many patients lose over 100 pounds, resulting in excess skin around their arms, waist and thighs. As the number of [bariatric] surgeries increase, so will the number of brachioplasties and reconstructive surgery."
Zarabi added that women should think carefully before choosing arm lifts.
"Surgery should be [the] last resort, only after coupling an exercise program with proper diet limiting salt, carbohydrates and eating high protein and nutrient-dense foods," she stressed.