Turning an outie bellybutton into an innie


Whether it happened during pregnancy, or they were just born that way, thousands of women and men have outie bellybuttons they don’t like.

Now, they don’t have to hide their tummies any more. A relatively new procedure can turn that outie into an innie in minutes, just in time for bathing suit season.

Shenade Charles told Ivanhoe, “I think we all have just that little thing that we’re quite self-conscious about.”
For 21-year old Shenade, it’s her outie belly button.

“I could probably count in my life like three times or so I’ve ever worn a bikini,” she said.

Matthew Schulman, MD, New York Board Certified Plastic Surgeon, is an expert when it comes to turning an outie bellybutton into an innie.

Dr. Schulman told Ivanhoe, “I always tell my patients I do more bellybutton surgeries in a month than most other plastic surgeons do in their entire career.”

Schulman perfected his procedure by using the training he received in both general surgery and plastic surgery.  First the doctor marks the bellybutton and numbs the area with a local anesthetic.  He then creates an incision to get to the hernia, or hole,that causes a bellybutton to poke out.

“And then I can put stitches in that hole to close the hole,” Dr. Schulman explained.

Next, Schulman tacks the bellybutton down from the inside, and finally he closes up the incision. The entire process takes about 30 minutes.

Shenade’s new bellybutton has given her the beach body she’s always wanted.  “For such a short procedure it can make a big impact on your life,” she said.

In just three days Shenade can take her bandage off and show off her bellybutton at the beach, and in four weeks it will be completely healed.  The procedure costs about $3,500.

BACKGROUND: Despite popular belief, an outie bellybutton actually has nothing to do with how the umbilical cord was cut or clamped. Most outies are nothing more than extra scar tissue. The rest are caused by an umbilical hernia which occurs when the stomach muscles don’t fuse together properly after the cord stump falls off, causing abdominal tissues to poke through. Outies can also be caused by how the scar attaches to the underlying muscles, the looseness of surrounding skin, the fat under the skin, and how flat or protruding your belly is. Although you can’t control whether you get an outie or an innie bellybutton, all outies can be fixed through surgery if someone is unhappy with the look. The problem is, according to Matthew Schulman, MD, Board Certified Plastic Surgeon, “The bellybutton doesn’t look so good after surgery because the surgeon may not take that extra step to make the bellybutton look pretty when they do it.”

(Source: http://www.everydayhealth.com/healthy-living/0421/how-normal-is-your-belly-button.aspx, http://www.parenting.com/article/the-cause-of-outie-belly-buttons

NEW TECHNOLOGY: Dr. Schulman says he has perfected his method of bellybutton surgery thanks to his experience as a plastic and general surgeon, “I was trained in fixing hernias so now I just combined what I learned early in my career in my general surgery training with what I do now which is cosmetic plastic surgery.” Dr. Schulman explained, “I am able to fix the hernia and play around with the bellybutton to make the bellybutton look nicer at the same time and I think that’s the best way to do it.” There are many different types of bellybuttons and not all are perfectly round, perfectly protruded or sunken in. Dr. Schulman refers to most bellybuttons as an “in-betweenie”. These are people who are not quite an innie and are not quite an outie either. He said, “That seems to be where most of the patients come from.” The surgery to fix an outie bellybutton is relatively simple. It is done under local anesthesia and with a very small incision. Dr. Schulman fixes the hernia, makes the bellybutton prettier and closes up with a few internal stitches. The whole procedure is completed in about 30 minutes and the patient can go home the same day. The procedure costs about $3,500.
(Source: Matthew Schulman, MD)


Matthew Schulman, MD
Board Certified Plastic Surgeon

If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com

Matthew Schulman, M.D., Board Certified Plastic Surgeon at Dr. Schulman Plastic Surgery explains a surgery to turn your outie bellybutton into an innie with little down time.
Interview conducted by Ivanhoe Broadcast News in May 2015

Tell me about this belly button procedure.  Is this something that’s been going on for a while?  Is it all of a sudden people are like, “Oh, it’s summertime, I want to get a new belly button.”

Dr. Schulman: It’s interesting because people seem to focus on the belly button.  It’s the center of your abdomen.  It’s sort of where your eye focus is.  So it seems natural that people have always complained about it. But the truth is, it’s a relatively new request.  People started coming to me 5 or 6 years ago saying, “I don’t like my belly button.”  That could be for a variety of reasons, either it could be they just didn’t like the way they were born with it. Perhaps they were born with an outie and they wanted an innie. Or maybe a change with pregnancies and it doesn’t look like a cute little innie anymore, like it did when someone was a teenager. Or someone had surgery before.  Maybe someone had a tummy tuck in the past and they don’t like what their belly button looks like after their tummy tuck. So, people started asking and I started doing it and then I started doing more and more and then the word got out and I sort of got this reputation as being an expert at the belly button. And of course people started coming in with even more difficult belly buttons, so it kind of spirals. Now I have patients really from all over the world that come to me specifically to change their belly button.  It’s not very commonly done. I always tell my patients I do more belly button surgeries in a month than most other plastic surgeons do in their entire career. 

Did you come up with the procedure?

Dr. Schulman: There are really two components to it.  If someone has an outie belly button, really what they have is a hernia and that hernia can be fixed.  That’s done all the time.  But usually it’s done with a general surgeon and the general surgeon will fix a hernia by plugging that little hole and it’s fixed.  But the problem is the belly button doesn’t look so good because they don’t take that extra step to make that belly button look pretty when they do it.  As a board certified plastic surgeon, I was general surgery trained before I became a plastic surgeon so I was trained in fixing hernias.  Now, I just combine what I learned early in my general surgery training with what I do now which is cosmetic plastic surgery. I’m able to fix the hernia and play around with the belly button and make the belly button look nicer at the same time.  And I think that’s the best way to do it.  The truth is that there are a lot of people fixing belly buttons out there, but they’re really just fixing the hernia. They’re fixing the medical component of it and not really concentrating on the cosmetic portion of it.  

Are there a lot of people with outies?

Dr. Schulman: Well, it’s kind of a combination.  People either have an outie, an innie or what I call an inbetweenie.  So, that’s the more common thing, that someone it’s not quite an innie; it’s not quite an outie, and that seems to be where most of the patients come from.  Now if someone has an outie, a lot of people like it.  It’s just a personal preference.  It’s cultural.  It really depends on what you’re personal preference is.  So I find if people have an outie, they kind of own it, they like it.  They embrace it.  There are plenty of celebrities out there with real outie belly buttons that you would say, why don’t they get it fixed?  Because they like it.  But it’s that inbetweenie that can be a real problem.  And people have a personal preference in terms of what they think is the ideal belly button and there really is no ideal belly button.  All the belly button is, is a scar.  It’s just a scar from where your umbilical cord was when you were a baby.  So, there’s no accepted ideal belly button, but people have preferences.  People see the belly buttons that you see in a Victoria Secret catalog.  It’s very different than what you would see on the beach. There are plenty of people with outie belly buttons. I probably do about 75 to 100 belly buttons per year which is a lot. 

What side effects could someone have?

Dr. Schulman: With any procedure, there can be bleeding and infection but those are extremely rare.  I tell my patients if there’s bleeding it’s not any dangerous bleeding, it just means you’re going to be a little bit more bruised than somebody else.  The infection is extremely rare.  All of my patients get antibiotics before and antibiotics after.  That’s really a theoretical concern, but very, very unusual.  The bigger issue is that there is a small scar. I do a really careful job to hide that scar within the belly button so it can’t be seen, but the one thing I don’t have control over is some people just make bad scars.  There’s things we can do to treat it if someone’s making a bad scar. There’s a little steroid injection and things we can do, but in general, this procedure is done under local anesthesia, so there’s no risk of any anesthetic problem.  They walk out right away, so the risks are no higher than trying to cross a busy Park Avenue on the way out of my office. 

How do you see your patient’s life change?

Dr. Schulman: Well with anything I do in cosmetic surgery, something may seem trivial.  It may seem like a small detail that to the outside observer just doesn’t seem significant. Who cares about a belly button, it’s a belly button.  But a lot of my patients were so self-conscious of their belly button that they would avoid being in situations where they show their belly button.  They were wearing one piece bathing suits when everybody else was wearing a two piece.  Or they were not wearing shirts that show their belly. I’ve had patients that have come back to me and they tell me for the first time ever, I’ve worn a bikini.  Or I’ve had young girls who were in high school and they were on cheerleading squads and dance teams where part of their uniform shows their midriff and they were so self-conscious about it that it interfered with activities such as that.  So, it sounds cliché to say it’s life changing, but if someone really hates their belly button and it’s interfering with their social life or things they do, it really can change their life if we give them a belly button that they’re comfortable with.

Anything else you want to add?  

Dr. Schulman: The only thing I would caution people is, that if this is a procedure you’re looking to get done, you have to make sure you find a surgeon that does this all the time.  A good amount of my patients have already had someone else attempt to fix their belly button and it becomes very, very difficult with any re-visional procedure to get things right. I think it’s important to find someone that does a lot of this and specializes in this and have it done right the first time because once you start that snowball effect of having a bad result it becomes really, really difficult  to get it right. 

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