In religion and literature, the belly button is a symbol of maternal connection and a reminder of our humanity. Da Vinci and Michelangelo carefully crafted the belly button as an essential and defining part of the human body as they explored the human anatomy. Yet, exposure of the belly button has been celebrated in some cultures while being restricted in others.
In recent times, music videos (thank you, Brittany), the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders, and the Victoria Secret Angels, to name a few, have all helped to establish the central abdomen and navel as an erogenous zone. As the center of so much attention, it is easy to understand how the umbilicus has been the focus of countless studies by plastic surgeons, who ponder the ideal location on the torso and debate the most desirable shape and contour.
Changes with Belly Buttons and the Bariatric Population
The simple truth is that most of us like our belly buttons. But many individuals in the bariatric population look at their belly button with concern, another embarrassing reminder of the body changes that accompany obesity.
With weight gain, pressure within the abdominal wall may predispose to the development of a hernia and the dreaded “outie.” With laparoscopic bariatric surgery, the umbilicus may be scarred or deformed, as it is often employed as an entry site for the largest surgical ports. Finally, with weight loss, adipose tissue may melt away, leaving a lax skin envelope that can descend and drape over the belly button, ironically mimicking the appearance of a frown.
Consequently, the recreation of an attractive belly button has become an important part of the restoration of anatomy, as well as self-esteem, when performing bariatric body contouring.
Tummy Tuck and Body Lift Results for the Belly Button
When a tummy tuck or body lift is performed, an incision is made across the lower abdominal wall and around the umbilicus. The skin and soft tissue of the anterior abdominal wall are lifted, revealing the underlying musculature, but the belly button is left attached to the torso. The muscles are tightened, and if present, any hernias are repaired. The skin and soft tissue of the lower abdominal wall are then removed, and the remaining tissue is advanced and redraped. This actually covers up the belly button and necessitates an opening in the skin to permit the umbilicus to be pulled through and sutured in place.
A smaller belly button, usually an “innie” is created, and sometimes the depression can be achieved by tacking the skin margin to the lining of the muscles. The surrounding tissue can also be contoured to create a gentle descent toward the umbo. A portion of the scar can often be hidden deep within the stalk, and some techniques can even create a little hooding at the upper part of the belly button that can look quite youthful.
Different techniques have been developed to allow the surgeon to alter the depth, size, and shape to restore the appearance of the belly button, but it should be noted that rebuilding the umbilical architecture can be quite challenging, because of the length of the umbilical stalk and skin excess. Weight loss body contouring can produce dramatic changes, talk with your surgeon about your goals and expectations. Done meticulously though, an attractive result can be realized!
Subtle Differences in Belly Buttons
Many thoughtful surgeons modify their technique depending on the gender of their patient, recognizing the subtle difference in the appearance of the ideal male and female navel. While most women desire a small, hooded belly button, T-shaped or oval and vertical, this does not always look appropriate on the male torso.
A poorly restored belly button detracts from the results of an abdominoplasty, so the creation of a natural-appearing umbilicus remains an important goal of body contouring surgery. It should be noted that a distorted or scarred belly button can often be revised, and it is even possible to reconstruct an umbilicus after it has been lost due to trauma, medical conditions, pregnancy, or surgery.
To the casual observer, changes in the belly button may be seemingly minor when compared with the development of a large pannus, but plastic surgeons experienced in bariatric body contouring don’t underestimate the importance of these changes and their impact on self-esteem and quality of life.
This article was originally published at ObesityHelp, Inc. You can find the original article Dr. Lickstein wrote here.
With over 19 years of experience in plastic surgery, Board Certified Plastic Surgeon, Dr. Larry Lickstein, brings with him a wealth of expertise to the Bitar Cosmetic Surgery Institute. He is a graduate of Princeton University and New York University School of Medicine, where he graduated at the top of his class. Dr. Larry Lickstein completed his surgical residency at Harvard Medical School, which culminated in being named chief resident in the Department of Surgery