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TODAY   |  April 30, 2013

Report: Arm-lift surgery more popular than ever

While Michelle Obama got her muscular arms the old-fashioned way, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons is reporting arm lifts are one of the country’s fastest-growing procedures. NBC’s Tamron Hall reports.

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>>> rise in arm lift surgeries in this country. tamron hall has details. good morning, as we flex our muscles.

>> quite a story. with the rise of obesity comes a rise in obesity surgery that often leaves patients with a lower number on the scale but that doesn't fix the skin left behind . thanks to the first lady, toned arms are more in fashion than ever before. she got her guns the old fashioned way with diet and exercise, but a new report from the american society of plastic surgeons suggests arm lifts are one of the fastest growing procedures in the industry. more than 15,000 women had the procedure last year, an increase of more than 4,000% since the year 2000 .

>> as you have more people having weight reduction surgery, you have more people suffering from a lot of extra hanging, sagging skin. we get patients that come in and tell us, wow, doc, i have lost this weight, i look great but my arms look like they have batwings.

>> reporter: these so-called batwings happen when someone has dramatically lost a lot of weight. while the body slimmed down, skin was left hanging behind.

>> the arm lift involves making an incision from the armpit all the way down to the elbow. and the extra skin is actually trimmed away.

>> reporter: anna gomez had the procedure in 2011 after her successful gastric bypass surgery left her 132 pounds lighter, but with a lot of sagging skin.

>> want to wear, you know, straps or strapless. i had the skin hanging. i really didn't like that.

>> reporter: is it just for someone who went from flab to fab? or can the average woman leave that extra layer behind just in time for summer?

>> it's not something that's for everyone. we do see a fair number of patients who come in with a little bit of hanging skin who may be better candidates for liposuction as opposed to an arm lift.

>> reporter: buyer beware . the procedure does leave a scar from your elbow to your armpit. so is it better to hit the gym instead of the o.r.?

>> the only way to change the sculpture of the arm is to tone the muscle and increase muscle definition. the only way you're going to do that is work in the gym.

>> reporter: for someone like anna, an arm lift was the ticket to a true transformation.

>> i feel great. i have more energy now that i have lost all that weight. more confidence that i did my arm lift. i feel great.

>> reporter: here's the skinny on what it costs. arm lifts cost from $5,000 to $12,000 depending where you live. it is considered cosmetic procedure. that's usually not covered by insurance. so you have to expect to pay out of pocket.

>> and you have the seam down your arm, too.

>> isn't that --

>> no, it doesn't for -- for example, the contestants on "the biggest loser," when you lose 100, 200 pounds the alternative is sagging skin. but if you are someone with just a little jiggle or jiggle-jaggl as honey boo-boo's mom says.

>> if you have your thigh done it costs an arm and a leg. by the way, if you tweet # tornadoweek, we are getting this fan going at the weather channel to ef-5. we need a million tweets. we'll check in coming up at 8:30.