The umbilicus is an important feature of the abdomen. It has long been recognized for its erotic appeal and was even banned from exposure during the 1920s in Hollywood. Current fashions mean that the umbilicus is often bared in everyday wear.
The umbilicus is classically oval in shape and indented. Problems with the umbilicus can either be present at birth or due to pregnancy, previous surgery, or piercing. There is sometimes a weakness in the abdominal wall (hernia) associated with a protruding umbilicus.
Who is a candidate?
Patients unhappy with the shape of their umbilicus and with realistic expectations of what can be achieved are good candidates for surgery. Patients requesting this operation include those with a protruding bellybutton and those who have undergone a previous abdominoplasty.
What are the consequences?
The umbilicus is actually a scar from the previous attachment to the umbilical cord. Umbilicus reshaping can therefore be considered a form of scar revision. In many cases no additional scars outside the umbilicus are created. If the problem is due to previous surgery, such as a tight or constricted umbilicus, the operation may be more involved.
What are the limitations?
If the umbilicus has an underlying hernia, it may be necessary to create a larger scar in order to repair it.
What are the risks?
This operation can be performed as a day case under local anaesthetic, or under a general anaesthetic if a hernia repair is required. The scar will need to be supported with tape for a couple of weeks but there are no other specific risks of this relatively minor surgical procedure.
What would you need to do before the operation?
If you are overweight you would be well advised to diet as best results are obtained in people who are the correct weight for their height. If you smoke there may be a slightly greater risk of poor wound healing.
What you should expect at the time of the operation?
The surgery is performed under local anaesthesia. If you desire, you may have sedation. The operation takes 45-60 minutes and you may wish to bring your favourite music with you to listen to on headphones during the operation. There should be no pain immediately after the operation as a long-lasting local anaesthetic injection is used. Later you should take simple over the counter painkillers such as paracetamol. Your abdomen will feel tight for the first week or so and you should avoid strenuous exercise during this time.
Light activities are comfortable immediately but strenuous exercise is not advisable for about 10 days. The scar will initially be a fine line, but may become raised and red temporarily. When it has fully settled, it should be pale, fine and flat. Mr Nduka will advise on ways to improve scars that are not settling.