tummy tuck belly button

Belly Button Bliss: What Really Happens During a Tummy Tuck

A tummy tuck, also known as abdominoplasty, is a cosmetic surgical procedure that improves the appearance of the abdomen. It involves removing excess fat and skin, and tightening the abdominal muscles.

Many patients wonder what will happen to their belly button during a tummy tuck. In most cases, the belly button is not removed or relocated. The surgeon makes an incision around the navel to detach it from the surrounding skin. The belly button remains connected to the underlying abdominal muscles through its stalk.

After repairing any separated muscles, the surgeon pulls the abdominal skin taut and redrapes it over the stomach area. This creates a smoother, tighter contour. The navel is then brought through a new opening in the skin and stitched into place. Its position may be slightly adjusted, but the belly button itself is preserved.

While the end results are usually quite pleasing, it’s understandable that patients have concerns about potential scarring or distortion of the navel. When performed by a skilled, board-certified plastic surgeon, tummy tucks can achieve beautiful outcomes while retaining a natural-looking belly button.

Types of Tummy Tucks

There are a few different types of tummy tuck procedures, depending on the extent of correction needed:

Mini Tummy Tuck

A mini tummy tuck focuses only on the lower abdomen below the belly button. An incision is made low on the abdomen to remove excess fat and skin, and tighten the abdominal muscles. The belly button is not affected at all in a mini tummy tuck. This is a good option for those who only have a small pooch of fat and skin that hangs over the bikini line.

Full Tummy Tuck

A full tummy tuck addresses both the upper and lower abdomen. An incision is made hip to hip across the lower abdomen. The surgeon detaches the belly button from the surrounding skin while keeping it connected to the abdominal muscles. Fat is removed, muscles are tightened, and skin is redraped. The belly button is then brought through a new opening in the skin and stitched into place. This gives a flatter, more toned appearance to the entire abdominal area.

Extended Tummy Tuck

An extended tummy tuck is the most involved option. Along with the full tummy tuck incisions, an additional incision is made around the back to address fat and loose skin on the sides and flanks. This provides contouring around the entire midsection, not just the front abdomen. The extended tummy tuck is used in cases of significant fat deposits and skin laxity that requires a complete belt lipectomy.

Incision Placement

The location of the incisions is one of the key differences between a full tummy tuck and a mini tummy tuck.

In a full tummy tuck, the surgeon will make one long incision low across the abdomen, usually just above the pubic area. This allows access to tighten the abdominal muscles and remove excess fat and skin from the middle and lower abdomen.

A second incision will be made around the belly button in order to detach it from the surrounding skin so it can be repositioned later. The stalk connecting the belly button to the abdominal wall remains intact.

For a mini tummy tuck, a shorter incision is made very low on the abdomen, just above the pubic bone. This allows the surgeon to address excess skin and fat only on the lower abdomen below the belly button. The belly button is not affected at all in a mini tummy tuck procedure.

The incision placement in both procedures is designed to leave minimal visible scarring after healing. The scars will be hidden along the bikini line.

Detaching and Reattaching the Belly Button

During a full tummy tuck procedure, the surgeon will make an incision around the belly button to detach it from the surrounding skin. However, it remains connected to its stalk within the abdominal muscles at all times.

Once the abdominal muscles have been repaired, the skin is pulled taut across the stomach. This causes the belly button to become covered by the tightened skin. The surgeon then creates a new opening in the skin for the belly button.

They carefully pull the belly button up through this new hole, much like threading a button through a buttonhole. The edges are stitched into the surrounding skin to secure it in place. While the belly button may appear slightly different after this process, it remains in the same general position.

The key points are that the belly button stays attached to its stalk during the procedure, but a new hole must be cut to reveal it once the skin is redraped. This allows the belly button to keep its original place while giving the abdomen a smoother, firmer appearance.

Repairing Abdominal Muscles

During a full tummy tuck, the surgeon will tighten and repair any separated or damaged abdominal muscles. This is a key step in achieving a flatter, tighter stomach contour.

The abdominal muscles (rectus abdominis) can become separated down the midline due to pregnancy, weight changes, aging, and other factors. This separation causes the abdomen to protrude outward and look undefined.

To repair this, the surgeon will first access the abdominal muscles through the incision. They will then stitch together and tighten the fascia tissue that connects the two sides of the rectus abdominis. This helps close the gap and bring the muscles back together into a more defined, toned appearance.

In some cases, the surgeon may also need to tighten the transverse abdominis, the deepest layer of abdominal muscles that wrap around the sides and back of the torso. This provides comprehensive tightening and flattening of the entire abdominal area.

Properly repairing and tightening the abdominal muscles provides structure and strength to the midsection. It is a vital part of achieving dramatic, long-lasting contour improvements from a tummy tuck procedure.

Redraping the Skin

After the abdominal muscles have been repaired, the surgeon will redrape the abdominal skin more tightly over the stomach to give it a smoother, flatter appearance. This involves pulling the skin down towards the incision site to eliminate excess skin and tighten the area.

The surgeon will grasp the remaining upper abdominal skin and pull it down like a window shade towards the lower abdominal skin near the incision site. This allows the skin to be stretched tight across the stomach area. The tighter the skin is pulled, the flatter and smoother the final result will be.

It’s important that the skin be pulled tight enough to achieve the desired contour, but not so tight that it causes restriction or complications. The surgeon will assess how much excess skin needs to be removed and how much tightening is optimal based on the individual patient.

Redraping the skin is a critical part of the tummy tuck procedure. It eliminates the loose, sagging skin and creates a firmer, flatter abdominal profile. Patients are often very pleased with how pulling the skin tighter over the stomach transforms the appearance of their midsection.

Suturing the Belly Button

Once the excess skin has been removed and the abdominal muscles repaired, the remaining skin is pulled taut across the stomach. This creates a smooth, tight contour but also covers up the belly button opening.

To expose the belly button again, the surgeon carefully marks and cuts a small hole in the skin where the belly button will be positioned. They will assess factors like the tension of the skin, placement of incisions, and your desired results.

The belly button is then gently brought through this new opening, essentially threading it through the hole like a button in a buttonhole. The surgeon takes great care in handling the belly button to avoid damaging any nerves or blood vessels.

With the belly button now protruding from the skin, the edges around the new belly button opening are sutured into place. Sutures will be neatly placed and secured so that the belly button appears natural and blends with the surrounding skin.

Proper suturing provides support to the belly button and minimizes the risk of it becoming distorted or losing its shape over time. Your surgeon will likely use dissolvable sutures and apply surgical tape over the sutures while healing. This belly button suturing process is a key step to achieving beautiful tummy tuck results.

Risks and Complications

All surgeries carry some risk, and it’s important to understand the potential complications of a tummy tuck procedure before deciding to move forward. Some of the main risks and complications include:


As with any surgery, infection is possible after a tummy tuck. Signs of infection include increasing pain, swelling, redness, drainage, and fever. Infection can usually be treated with antibiotics but may result in more extensive scarring. Proper wound care and hygiene after surgery can help prevent infections.


Scarring is an unavoidable side effect of any incision-based surgery. The scar from a full tummy tuck forms between the pubic area and belly button. Over time the scar will fade, but it will remain permanently. Proper care of the incision site during healing can minimize scarring. In some cases, scar revision surgery may be done later to improve the appearance of scars.

Changes or loss of sensation

During a tummy tuck, abdominal nerves may become damaged or cut. This can cause numbness, tingling, hypersensitivity, or complete loss of sensation in areas below the incision site or around the navel. For most patients, sensation gradually returns within a few months after surgery as nerve endings heal and regenerate. But some loss of sensation may be permanent.

Recovery Process

The recovery process after a tummy tuck focuses on allowing the incisions to heal and reducing swelling. Here are some key aspects of recovery:

  • Drainage tubes are usually placed during surgery to remove excess fluid and reduce swelling. These will be removed after 1-2 weeks once drainage has reduced. It’s important to carefully follow instructions on caring for drainage tubes to avoid infection.
  • A compression garment is worn for several weeks after surgery to provide support and reduce swelling. The garment should be worn as directed by your surgeon, even though it may feel uncomfortable. Proper compression is vital for optimal results.
  • Activity will be restricted for 2-4 weeks to allow the abdomen to heal. No strenuous exercise or heavy lifting should be done during the initial recovery period, as this can put stress on the incisions. Walking and light activity is encouraged once approved by your surgeon to prevent blood clots and improve circulation.
  • Pain medication will be prescribed to keep you comfortable after surgery. Take only as directed and do not combine with alcohol or other substances.
  • Follow your surgeon’s instructions carefully regarding showering, dressing changes, and caring for incisions. Keep the areas clean and watch for signs of infection like redness, swelling, warmth, drainage or fever.
  • Schedule follow-up appointments as directed so your surgeon can monitor your progress during recovery.

The recovery period requires patience since it takes time for swelling to subside and final results to be visible. But following your surgeon’s instructions can lead to smooth healing and a beautiful contoured abdomen.


A tummy tuck is designed to provide a flatter, tighter stomach contour by repairing weakened abdominal muscles and removing excess fat and skin. When done properly, the results can be dramatic and long-lasting.

After a tummy tuck, patients report feeling much more confident about their midsection. Clothes fit better and the stomach appears flatter both in and out of clothing. The entire abdomen will look firmer, tighter, and more toned.

The results are permanent in the sense that the sutures used to repair the abdominal muscles and re-drape the skin will not come undone. However, significant weight gain can impact results, as it would stretch the skin again. Maintaining a stable weight is important for preserving a taut abdominal contour over the long-term.

Some swelling, bruising, and soreness is normal during the recovery period. Most swelling subsides within a few weeks, but residual swelling may persist for 6 months or longer. Over time, the scars from incisions will continue to fade and flatten.

Overall, patients can enjoy a dramatically improved abdominal contour after a tummy tuck. The results restore confidence and allow patients to feel comfortable in their own skin again. As long as weight is maintained, the tighter, flatter stomach can be enjoyed for years to come.

Astrid Hirthe
Dr. Astrid Hirthe is a plastic and reconstructive specialist prepared and taught in the old style custom. She procured her PCP of Medication degree at the College of Virginia Institute of Medication. Dr. Astrid Hirthe then spent the following seven years participated in careful preparation at Lehigh Valley Emergency clinic in Allentown, Pennsylvania, where she finished the full residency preparing program in both General A medical procedure and Plastic and Reconstructive Medical procedure.

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