The bellybutton is the first scar you ever received. Created by the shedding of the umbilical cord following birth, it’s one of the permanent markers of our dramatic transition from the security of the womb to the outside world. It’s also, as Cari Nierenberg discusses on The Body Odd, one of our least understood body parts, while at the same time a rarely acknowledged subject of cosmetic adjustment.
Cosmetic surgery for bellybuttons, also known as umbilicoplasty, is rare but does occur. Many people who are dissatisfied with the shape or size of their bellybutton may opt for the surgery, particularly after a changed shape following pregnancy or weight loss.
Some people with “outies” may have a lifelong dislike of their navels’ appearance and pursue the surgery when they can afford it. Nierenberg spoke with Dr. Curtis Cetrulo, Jr., a Boston-area doctor, who says that he has never encountered someone who wanted an innie converted into an outie.
Most often, however, cosmetic changes to the bellybutton will occur alongside another surgery, such as a tummy tuck or umbilical hernia repair. During tummy tuck surgery, the bellybutton is usually isolated from the surrounding skin, standing upon a stalk of tissue so that it retains its original position on the abdomen. Once the excess skin is removed and the remaining skin is pulled tight, a new hole may be created for the bellybutton so that the abdomen retains a natural appearance. Based on the patient’s desires, the surgeon may perform some modifications to the bellybutton during the surgery.
Bellybutton reconstruction surgery requires local anesthesia and has few side effects beyond some soreness and swelling. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), there were over 2,100 umbilicoplasties performed without accompanying tummy tuck surgery in the U.S. in 2005, which was the last year that ASAPS reported statistics for the procedure.
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