What Can I Do if my Belly Button "Dies" As a Result of TT with Umbilical Hernia Repair?

I am 9 days post-op from a TT, umbilical hernia repair, BA and thigh lipo. I was just told at my follow-up that it looks like my belly button may be dying due to a decrease in the blood supply. I was too stunned to ask questions, but now I have a million. Can anything be done to save the dying umbilicus? What will it look like if it "dies". Is there any kind of revision that can be done after it heals. It looks black and odd shaped now. What should I expect?

Doctor Answers 11

"Dead" belly button after tummy tuck and umbilical hernia repair. What to do.

First of all, congratulate your surgeon on his or her honesty; this CAN occur in any tummy tuck patient, and is certainly more likely when an umbilical hernia is repaired during tummy tuck.

The opening in the abdominal wall for your umbilicus (and its blood supply) was stretched, allowing abdominal fat, or if large enough, even abdominal contents such as small intestine to herniate (protrude) through this stretched opening. This is the definition of "umbilical hernia." After pregnancy and childbirth, small umbilical hernias present as "outie" belly buttons. Larger hernias can become symptomatic or even dangerous if small intestine becomes trapped and kinked off in a strangulated hernia. Closing this hernia opening to prevent the protrusion is what it takes to return your umbilicus to an "innie," but this can also compromise the circulation to the umbilical skin.

Gray or bluish discoloration indicates circulatory compromise, and can lead to dead umbilical skin. I see all of my tummy tuck patients the next day to check this, and add nitropaste or other considerations to maximize circulation and diminish the risk of dead umbilical skin. But sometimes this occurs despite our best efforts (or if the patient is a smoker or exposed to second-hand smoke--nicotine is a potent vasoconstrictor and can single-handedly kill skin that has marginal circulation).

At 9 days post-op, your umbilcus is likely either dead or alive (not "dying"), since by now the circulation (or lack thereof) has already declared itself. If dead, there is nothing to do but keep the living tissues from becoming infected (antibiotics, careful wound care, and timely follow-up visits) and allow things to heal. Surgical debridement may be necessary if the dead skin becomes infected. You will ultimately develop a scar in this area that in many cases actually resembles a normal umbilicus quite well. In other cases, surgical creation of a "new" umbilicus can be carried out by your surgeon.

If the belly button circulation was compromised at the beginning of your post-op period and is now recovering, keeping the area clean and protected (and perhaps again considering antibiotic coverage to minimize the risk of infection) will allow the tissues to heal as rapidly as possible.

Perhaps your surgeon is "breaking it to you gently" if 9 days is the first time you have been seen post-op. If the belly button is black, dry, and firm, it is not "dying," it is already dead. Read two paragraphs previously. If the skin is dead, it cannot be revived, but all measures should be taken to minimize adjacent tissue loss or infection of skin or muscle repair sutures that could lead to other problems. See your surgeon frequently and follow wound care protocols carefully. This may take a bit longer than you or your surgeon initially planned, but ultimately things work out just fine in the vast majority of cases. Best wishes!

Minneapolis Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 255 reviews

Dying belly button from tummy tuck

Sometimes the belly button can die as a result of diminished blood supply. Don't panic, your PS can reconstruct a new one for you. For now, just let this heal and you might be amazed at how good it looks. Another scenario could be the belly button is still viable but has slipped beneath the skin and you just can't see it. This would need a revision as well.

Kurtis Martin, MD
Cincinnati Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 74 reviews

Problem with umbilicus

Although there is a risk of injury to the unmusical bold supply during tummy tuck with hernia repair, at this point it is too early to determine how much injury. I would suggest you wait till the swelling, subsided and your plastic surgeon will be able to determine if anything needs to be done. In many occasion the umbilicus is dusky and looks like its necrotic after hernia repair,but eventually it recovers or most of it survive.

Moneer Jaibaji, MD
San Diego Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 15 reviews

Belly button reconstruction is possible

Hello, Sorry to hear about your tummy tuck healing issue. Although rare this can happen for a variety of reasons. At this stage there is not much that can be done other than wait to allow the body to declare what is alive and what is not. I would keep a close watch to make sure the belly button does not end up creating an infection. If your belly button indeed does not survive a new belly button can be created. Although it will not be as good as your original belly button the reconstructed belly button can be quite good if done well. Hang in there and take some comfort in the fact that a solution exists. All the best, Dr Remus Repta

Remus Repta, MD
Scottsdale Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 166 reviews

Hernia repair and tummy tuck

Umbilical hernia repair and tummy tuck performed at the same time ahs a higher incidence of umbilical loss due to loss of some of its blood supply.  Commonly when the umbilicus looks dusky or necrosis occurs, the are usually heals pretty well. If it does not a neo-umbilicus can often be created.  Good luck.

Steven Wallach, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
4.1 out of 5 stars 29 reviews

Dying belly button after a tummy tuck

Sorry to hear about your complication in regards to your tummy button. At 9 days, however, the future is difficult to predict. It is possible that you will have only a superficial loss and it will heal with minimal scar. The treatment ultimately needed will be predicated on the extent of your belly button loss. For a total loss, which is rare, there are reconstructive procedures that can be performed. It's most important that you be patient at this time. The of the worst things a surgeon can do is to operate too soon. Operating on an immature wound usually results in a compromised result. This is very important for ya favorable long term result. In the meantime, stay hydrated, eat healthfully, and listen to your plastic surgeon regarding dressing changes and wound care. Good luck.

E. Ronald Finger, MD
Savannah Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 81 reviews

Umbilical issues after abdominoplasty

Even if the umbilicus dies, there is a good possibility that the resultant scar will end up looking like a belly button anyway. If it turns out that the tissue dies and resultant scar is not an acceptable one, there are options for creating a neo-umbilicus. Just be patient with your surgeon and address the issues as they develop. You might need to complete some dressing changes for a period of time, but will likely be fine in the end. 

Wm. Todd Stoeckel, MD
Raleigh-Durham Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 84 reviews

Dying Belly Button after Tummy Tuck and Hernia Repair.

Sorry to hear about the issue with your belly button.   Your surgeon's description is one way to look at the situation.  The other perspective is that your belly button is struggling to live.  The combination of tummy tuck and belly button hernia repair does have an increased risk of the skin of your belly button dying do to poor blood supply.  What I always recommend is remaining well hydrated, (drink lots of fluids and usually recommend electrolyte drinks such as Gatorade), keep the area warm (no ice packs) and if your surgeon is in agreement, applying a cream called nitropaste which may help dilate the blood vessels and improve the blood flow through the skin.  This may help minimize how much skin dies or potentially prevent any from dying.     
If it does die, you have to remember what your belly button was first made of..... scar tissue.  If it does die, it will form new scar tissue and can usually be made to look natural again. 
Good Luck
Dr M

Daniel P. Markmann, MD
Baltimore Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 114 reviews

Loss of Umbilical Blood Supply after Tummy Tuck and Umbilical Hernia Repair?

I'm sorry to hear about the complication you are experiencing. At this point, however there is not much that can be done but allow time to see how much of the umbilicus survives and what the resulting appearance of the area is. Occasionally, the  loss of tissue is superficial and the resulting umbilical  appearance is quite acceptable. Sometimes, umbilical reconstruction may be necessary down the line. I would suggest that you continue to follow-up with your plastic surgeon.

Best wishes.

Tom J. Pousti, MD, FACS
San Diego Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 1,499 reviews

Umbilical reconstruction...

The umbilicus often has decreased blood supply when a hernia is fixed in conjunction with a tummy tuck. The good news is that even though it looks bad now, it will most likely improve. If you have complete loss, the umbilicus can be reconstructed. There is little to do to improve the situation now - it is "wait and see" time. Good Luck!

Brian Klink, MD
Vacaville Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 94 reviews

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.