Optimal Placement of a Brachioplasty Scar: A Survey Evaluation

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Abstract

Background

Brachioplasty has become a popular procedure to rejuvenate the upper arm, with its frequency increasing proportionately to the popularity of surgical weight loss procedures. The major complication of the procedure is undesirable, visible scarring. An ongoing, unresolved debate in the brachioplasty literature is the optimal placement of the brachioplasty scar. Some authors advocate a medially based incision along the bicipital groove, whereas others prefer to leave the scar posteriorly in the brachial sulcus. In addition, some advocate a sinusoidal scar over a straight-line closure. This study attempts to resolve the question of where and how to place the scar based on population surveys.

Methods

Photographs were taken of a model with her arm progressively abducted at the shoulder to a level of 90 degrees, with the elbow progressively flexed to 90 degrees and the arm externally rotated. Anterior and posterior views were included. Using Photoshop, a brachioplasty scar was digitally created and placed on the arm first medially in the bicipital groove, then posteriorly in the brachial sulcus. Straight-line scars and sinusoidal scars were also compared in each position. Before creating a computer-generated image of the scars, the scar lines were marked with a marking pen to ensure they could be followed with movement of the model’s arm. An online survey was then created and distributed and included multiple variables: position of the scar, length of scar vs residual deformity, and acceptability based on phase of scar in time (early vs late result). The scale was numerical from 1 to 5, with 1 being a very objectionable scar and 5 being a very acceptable scar. The survey was disseminated among the general public, plastic surgeons, and patients in the Yale Cosmetic Surgery Resident Clinic who were either seen in consultation for brachioplasty or who underwent the procedure.

Results

Electronic surveys were distributed to and completed by the general public (n = 117), local plastic surgery residents and attendings (n = 10), and patients who had undergone or were seen in consultation for brachioplasty (n = 9). Among all participants, in the chronic phase, a medial straight scar received an average rating of 4.00, a posterior straight scar received an average rating of 3.14, a posterior sinusoidal scar received an average rating of 2.61, and a medial sinusoidal scar received an average rating of 2.03. Across age groups, gender, plastic surgeons, and patients, the medially based straight brachioplasty scar is more acceptable than the posteriorly based straight scar (4.00 vs 3.14, P < 0.001). If the scar shape is made sinusoidal, a posteriorly based scar is favored over a medial one (2.61 vs 2.03, P < 0.001), yet this is still not as aesthetically pleasing as a medial straight scar (4.00 vs 2.61, P < 0.001). Furthermore, survey participants accepted a longer scar over a residual deformity (58.8% vs 41.2%).

Conclusions

Based on the preferences of the populations surveyed, we conclude that the medially based straight scar is the most aesthetically acceptable option when performing a brachioplasty.

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