Filed under things you didn’t know existed: a plastic-surgery procedure that can change an outie to an innie. It’s called cosmetic belly-button surgery and Matthew Schulman, a plastic surgeon in New York City, says he’s seen an uptick in requests from patients for the procedure.
“It’s become very popular with me because not many doctors are doing this—it’s kind of a unique thing that I started doing about five or six years ago,” says Schulman, who believes he may be one of the only plastic surgeons offering belly-button surgery as a singular procedure. “Most [of my] patients with ‘outties’ are postpartum patients that have a small umbilical hernia associated with their previous pregnancies,” says David Hidalgo, a clinical professor of surgery at Weill-Cornell Medical College and a plastic surgeon in New York City. “Repair is straightforward through a small incision and often combined with other procedures, such as abdominoplasty and breast augmentation. In those cases the “outtie” is an incidental finding and not the primary motivation for seeking surgery.” Hidalgo says “it’s rare” to see patients who only seek surgery solely for an outtie belly button.
Yet Schulman says a good number of patients come to his office seeking only to change their outtie belly button. “Sometimes the procedure requires removing extra skin that starts to gather at the top of the belly button. This usually happens if someone has had a belly-button piercing that’s been in for a long time, or sometimes it can happen after pregnancy or changes in weight,” says Schulman. “But probably the most common reason for doing these surgeries is that people have an outtie and they never knew that they can change it to an innie.” He says he performs a cosmetic belly-button procedure “six to eight times a month.”
There are two ways the sugery can play out: “If I’m just trying to remove the hooding of the skin at the top of the belly button, then it’s just a matter of numbing up the area and removing that skin and placing some stitches so that it looks nicer and it looks rounder and it gives it a more youthful look,” says Schulman. If someone is simply trying to turn the outtie they were born with into an innie, Schulman says the process is a bit more challenging. “With outties, there’s usually something poking through—it’s usually a small piece of fat that’s supposed to be on the inside of the abdomen, or it could be a piece of intestine that’s poking through,” says Schulman. To turn it into an innie, Schulman makes an incision and fixes the hernia. Then he uses stitches to close the opening and removes some of the extra skin out of the belly button so that it tucks in to look like an innie. According to Schulman, both of the surgeries take about 25 minutes to complete, require only some injections of numbing medicine, and patients can go about their daily lives once it’s done (with some soreness that Schulman equates to “nothing worse than what you would feel if you just went to the gym and you just did 500 sit-ups”). Here’s a before and after of one of his patients:
Schulman charges $3,500 for a cosmetic belly-button procedure. If that price is too steep for you, a tummy tuck is another alternative. Bonnie Baldwin, a plastic surgeon in Houston, says it’s expected when she does a tummy tuck, to also create a “cute innie” belly button. “I always fashion an innie and hide the scar within the depths of the belly button,” says Baldwin. “By using stitches along the stalk of the umbilicus, trimming it, and tucking it down to the rectus muscle tissue, it becomes an innie.”
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