Belly Button Discharge After Tummy Tuck

I had a Tummy Tuck done on 10/28. My belly button has been seeping discharge and has an odor. I have been cleaning it with peroxide, but it has not helped. There also seems to be a small hole just inside as well. What should I do? When will it heal?

Doctor Answers 20

Belly button blues

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Three weeks out from your tummy tuck your belly button should be healed. There are occasions when it takes slightly longer to heal, especially if the circulation to the belly button has been injured (sometimes unavoidable). Malodorous drainage may also be a result of an infected deep stitch. Your plastic surgeon should be able to discern the difference between the two and direct your treatment. Peroxide is a very toxic solution and kills not only bacteria, but the normal cells needed for healing, so be careful with its use. Good luck!

A buried stitch may be the most likely culprit.

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The belly button usually heals within 2-3 weeks after an abdominoplasty. depending on the type of sutures used, an infected suture, a "spitting suture" or a suture that should have come out but is still in may be the answer.

A quick visit back to your surgeon should easily clarify the source of the bad smell. If it is a retained suture, removing it is a simple process. If antibiotics are needed your surgeon will prescribe them.

The value of washing wounds with peroxide is overstated. Peroxide will delay healing. Mild soap and water is all you need.

Francisco Canales, MD
Santa Rosa Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 35 reviews

Do not mess around, see your surgeon!

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A foul smelling discharge from an open wound is abnormal! Causes may range from very simple to very complex...which could be potentially dangerous. Bottom line is STOP messing around and go see your surgeon immediately. In general, complications following surgery are usually treated easier early rather than late.

Stephen A. Goldstein, MD, FACS

Stephen A. Goldstein, MD
Englewood Plastic Surgeon

It's most likely because of a stitch, but cannot be too careful

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Sometimes discharge or small opening can be associated with "spitting sutures." Spitting suture is a term used when a buried, absorbable suture becomes exposed, therefore, losing it's absorbability. These spitting sutures can be easily removed by your surgeon. A quick visit back to your surgeon whom can help determine the exact cause. It also can be associated with infection, so make sure you check it with your surgeon.

Contemplating Your Navel? - Use Your Surgeon's Eyes

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After Abdominoplasty or Tummy Tuck, there can be some delayed healing of the umbilicus (belly-button/navel). Healing of the umbilicus depends on the remaining blood supply from the abdominal wall, and occasionally this can be compromised especially when the abdominal wall (rectus diastasis) is tightened with sutures. Sometimes, antibiotic ointment or dried blood accumulates in the depth of the umbilicus as well, which may cause a discharge or odor.

You should see your surgeon to make sure that healing is progressing as expected. You may require more antibiotics, or the drainage may be sign of a seroma or fluid pocket which could lead to infection.

Athleo Louis Cambre, MD
Los Angeles Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 6 reviews

Check with your doctor

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Sometimes the umbilicus has some delayed healing. Usually they go on to heal without any problems. You may want your surgeon to evaluate you. Sometimes there is a retained suture that prevents it from healing on its own. I am not a big fan of peroxide because it can be tissue toxic. Usually I recommend daily showers and dry dressings.

Steven Wallach, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
4.2 out of 5 stars 30 reviews

See your surgeon

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Please see your surgeon to check this out. Discharge that has a bad odor often indicates an infection, and this needs to be addressed right away. Best of luck.

Foreign body removal after Tummy Tuck

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It is most likely a foreign body causing the infection. Usually it is a suture that might need removal. Check with your surgeon again for possible removal.

Hisham Seify, MD, PhD, FACS
Orange County Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 19 reviews

Belly Button drainage can be caused by a buried suture knot

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Typically when recreating the umbilicus a buried absorbable suture may be used. Sometimes these become exposed or infected thus causing the drainage. You need an examination to determine the cause. If it is the suture knot then it needs to be removed. Also there could be an area of fat necrosis, which is dead fat, this will also cause some drainage.

Jeffrey Zwiren, MD
Atlanta Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 20 reviews

Tell your doctor!

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I agree with the other physicians that it is usually a matter of wound healing that can take time due to blood supply, etc. In some cases, it can be an infection or accumulation of fluid (seroma) that is trying to come out of an incision that has not fully healed. This is not common so I don't want you to get too concerned. However, it is very important to let your surgeon know what is happening and they should be able to evaluate you and give you more guidance.

Furthermore, I agree with Dr. Wallach that peroxide can be more harmful to tissues than helpful. I would also recommend stopping the peroxide and just using soap and water. And as Dr. Freund mentioned, keeping the wound slightly moist with an antibiotic ointment like neosporin can help with healing.

Sirish Maddali, MD
Portland Plastic Surgeon

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.