WASHINGTON (AFP) - Plastic surgery to remove fat and excess skin on the upper arms has gained appeal in the United States, where the procedure has exploded in popularity since the year 2000, experts said Monday.
More than 15,000 US women had the procedure known as arm lifts, or brachioplasty, done last year, at a cost of US$61 million (S$75 million) nationwide, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
The surgery is most popular among women over 40, but a few hundred men had the operation last year.
"Women are paying more attention to their arms in general and are becoming more aware of options to treat this area," said ASPS president Gregory Evans.
Doctors say there is no single reason why, but experts believe the desire to emulate celebrities and their super-toned arms may be a factor.
The ASPS pointed to a recent poll that suggested "women most admire the arms of first lady Michelle Obama, followed closely by Jennifer Aniston."
"I think we are always affected by the people that we see consistently, either on the big screen or on TV," said Dr David Reath, a doctor in Knoxville, Tennessee who chairs the ASPS Public Education Committee.
"We see them and think, 'yeah, I'd like to look like that.'"
The average cost for the operation is nearly US$4,000.
Upper arm lift procedures may involve liposuction or cutting away excess skin.
But Dr Reath cautioned that there are drawbacks to brachioplasty, which requires an incision from the elbow to the armpit.
"It's a trade-off. We get rid of the skin, but we leave a scar," he said.
"So, 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."