What Happens To The Belly Button After A Tummy Tuck?
Patients sometimes seem confused about what happens to the belly button after a full or standard tummy tuck. The fate of the belly button depends on the type of tummy tuck performed. Some tummy tucks don’t impact the belly button, while others require more intensive work. In this post, we’ll explain what you can expect.
Belly Button After Mini Tummy Tuck
In a mini tummy tuck, a wedge of skin is taken out of the lower abdomen. The belly button remains in place, it may be pulled a little but stays for the most part as it started.
Belly Button After Umbilical Float Tummy Tuck
In an umbilical float tummy tuck, the belly button is elevated with the skin and pulled down with the skin, so it is pretty much your belly button without change just moved to a lower location. This type of tummy tuck is generally considered in very tall patients.
Belly Button After Full Tummy Tuck
To me, one of the most important parts of a tummy tuck is the belly button. Whether we like or don’t like the tummy tuck scar itself, it is usually concealed under the bathing suit or bikini line, but the belly button is there for all to view. I wish more surgeons focused on it. An overly large belly button can diminish what is otherwise a lovely result.
I always tell my patients that nothing is as natural as a God-given belly button, but I do my best to keep it as natural as possible after surgery.
Here’s how I approach the belly button in a tummy tuck.
Keep it simple
I have seen surgeons make all sorts of unusual shapes in a quest for the “perfect” belly button. In my opinion, the simpler the better. I make a short horizontal line and remove little if any skin. Because of the downward tension on the abdominal skin, that horizontal line elongates into a diamond. That is all you need and as the umbilical skin heals the diamond becomes rounder.
That horizontal incision, which elongates into a diamond, also allows me to pull the abdominal scar down lower- so to me it is a win/win.
Keep it small
I like small belly buttons for three reasons:
- Smaller belly buttons are less obtrusive. Meaning, they draw less attention.
- I don’t know what kind of scar you will make. While I use all the tools in my power to make your scars beautiful, ultimately, your genetics will determine how much scar tissue you lay down. A smaller belly button will generally leave a smaller scar.
- If a belly button is too small making it larger is easier, but if a belly button is too large making it smaller is far more difficult.
Keep it low
To some extent, in a standard tummy tuck, we are beholden to the starting position of the belly button. But when the tissues are elevated that little stalk can be nudged up or down and even right to left. When I can, aesthetically I prefer a little lower. In my opinion, an umbilicus in the lower third of the abdomen tends to make the torso look longer and hence leaner.
Leave it long
We can leave some surrounding skin which, when flipped up, will deepen the stalk when the belly button is freed from the surrounding tissue. Why would you do this? Most women having tummy tuck have muscle tightening. When the midline tummy muscles are pulled together, tissues in between, including the belly button stalk, are pulled inward. Starting with a longer stalk allows a more precise and tension-free closure. If too long, the stalk is easily trimmed as it is inset.
Quilting and tension
As many of you know I quilt my tummies. That means I sew down the abdominal wall skin so it heals more quickly. It also lets me pull the abdominal skin to the belly button without pulling on the stalk. Less tension often means less risk of healing issues and hopefully a better scar. Removing some fat in the area where the belly button will be placed also helps to minimize tension and improve contour.
While my way is not the only way, and nothing is foolproof, it has been an evolution. It has always been my goal to put as many patients as I can back into a two-piece bathing suit, have them feel good about it, and hopefully have no one know I’ve even been there.
Enhancing the Natural Aesthetic
When performing belly button revision after a tummy tuck, I believe in adopting a simplified approach. Belly button revision plays a crucial role in achieving the desired results of a tummy tuck procedure, particularly when it comes to enhancing the natural aesthetic of the belly button. Through a combination of meticulous planning and precise execution, I make a conscious effort to create a natural-looking belly button. By making a short horizontal incision and minimizing skin removal, the belly button maintains its natural shape and proportions.
By prioritizing belly button revision following a tummy tuck, surgeons have the opportunity to enhance the natural aesthetic of the abdominal area. This focused attention on the belly button ensures the overall satisfaction and confidence of the patient.
Are there any belly button issues to be wary of after a tummy tuck?
The belly button is one of the two things we watch closely after a tummy tuck. The other is the skin of the lower abdomen. Both areas are where the blood supply is stressed the most and healing issues, while very rare, can occur.
The good news is that even if a belly button does not heal, a hole then heals in and looks like a belly button anyway. Be sure to let your surgeon know if you have had a prior umbilical hernia repair as this can impact healing.
How long does it take for the belly button to recover?
Like all scars in a tummy tuck, I recommend gentle massage to help minimize the scar tissue. It takes between 6 to 12 months for the scars to fade and soften maximally.
I never recommend sticking a marble in the belly button, although for some reason that idea floats around the internet.
For more information about recovering from a tummy tuck, read our post: Tummy Tuck Preparation, Recovery and Aftercare
What can you do if your belly button looks weird after a tummy tuck?
While nothing is as natural as a God-given belly button, I give it great focus because to me it will one day be the only visible part of the tummy tuck. Making small belly buttons larger is far easier than making big ones smaller, so I always favor small ones. All sutures should be placed underneath the skin to minimize visibility.
Correcting an overly large or weird-looking belly button is best accomplished with a second tummy tuck (if possible), which is best avoided at all costs by getting it right in the original surgery.
Can you get a belly button piercing afterwards?
Some patients will want to pierce their belly buttons after a tummy tuck, but it should be done with caution. Sometimes the metal of a piercing can cause inflammation of scars and make them more noticeable.
If it is done at all, it is best to wait 6-12 months until the scars are fully healed. You may wish to consult your surgeon first.
A tummy tuck is not for the faint of heart. It is a real surgery, with real recovery and, dare I say, risk. The belly button thinking, the scar placement and managing expectations are all key to making patients happy. Yet, for the patients who are doing everything right post-partum or after weight loss, I can think of nothing more gratifying than a tummy tuck to help achieve their aesthetic goals.
January 14, 2023 3:41 pm