Transumbilical Vs Conventional Breast Augmentation

What is the difference between transumbilical Breast augmentation and conventional Breast augmentation?

Doctor Answers 15

There are many differences

When you use the word " conventional" for an incision site on a breast augmentation, I infer that you believe trans umbilical breast augmentation or TUBA to be " unconventional."

If this is what you mean then I agree with you %100. There are few if any advantages for using the belly button as access to you breasts. Keep in mind that in the US approximately 1% of augmentations are done with the TUBA technique. There are many reasons for this.

  1. The procedure is done essentially blindly with a blunt rod to create a tunnel to the breast and hence a pocket for the implant. This leaves even the most experienced TUBA surgeons with limited control of implant placement and results.
  2. Patients who choose this technique can only have saline implants since one can not stuff a filled silicone implant through the tube that is inserted in the incision.
  3. The saline implant itself is sometimes used to create the pocket once it is filled.This puts undue stress and trauma on the implant and may limit the warranty.
  4. If one has a complication or bleeding then re operation is always done via another more conventional incision around the areola or under the breast crease.
  5. The only theoretical advantage of a TUBA is that one will not have incisions on your breast. One now has a potentially more visible incision on the belly button and compared to an areolar incision which is almost imperceptible in most patients, that advantage is nil.

I hope this helps you make a more educated and sound decision. Your best chance of meeting your expectations is the first time you have surgery so give yourself every advantage and go "conventional."

Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon
4.2 out of 5 stars 10 reviews

Difference between Trans-umbilical Breast Augmentation (TUBA) and conventional augmentation

There are four basic incision sites: in the crease under the breast, under the areola, in the armpit, and in the belly button.  There are pros and cons to each of them which you should discuss in detail with your doctor.  I have done over 5000 TUBA procedures, above and below the chest muscle, over the past twenty years.  I consider the following to be the pros and cons of this approach:


1. There is only a single small scar hidden under the upper fold of the belly button.  Since many surgeries are done through such an incision, it is not a scar that is likely to be associated with breast augmentation.

2. Implants can be placed above or below the chest muscle.

3. There is little cutting of tissue involved with this surgery.  I don't even hook up a cautery when I use this approach because there is basically no bleeding involved.  Because there is little cutting of tissue, there is less risk to the sensory nerves to the breast and nipple, less risk of bleeding, and faster recovery time.



1. Only saline implants can be used with this approach.

2. Because the incision site is more remote from the breast, there is a greater chance of asymmetry with this approach.  It is best to use a doctor with a lot of experience with this approach to minimize this risk.

3. Future surgeries may require using a different incision site.

4. Rarely, a "knot" or a "cord" may be felt along the abdominal tunnel.  In my experience, this always goes away with warm compresses and massages.  I have NEVER seen a permanent one.

As with any procedure, it is best to use a doctor with a lot of experience with this technique and who is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.  There are many doctors out there who take weekend courses and then proclaim themselves plastic surgeons.  This has been especially true with the TUBA procedure.  Beware!

Edwin C. Pound, III, MD
Atlanta Plastic Surgeon
4.6 out of 5 stars 25 reviews

It's a different incision with definite limitations

Transumbilical augmentation has been popularized by the idea that the scar and incision is placed in the belly button area and therefore "hidden" from the breast area. Only saline implants can be placed with this method as the "track" from the belly button to the breast has to accomodate a small object (the folded implant) that is then expanded. I have seen some very nice results from this technique, but I have seen some disasters.

First, the belly button is not the "cleanest" area on the body to place an incision and also place a sterile implant through. I have seen some very large scars in this area and the possibility of infection is higher.

Second, the creation of a submuscular pocket --the most important part of placing an implant--is not done in an ideal environment, given the distance of the belly button to the breast area. Again, given the distance, the silicone gel implant (with the most natural feel and appearance) cannot be placed through this incision.

Standard incisions (nipple or inframmary--at the breast crease), allow full access to the breast area for pocket creation, whether below or above the muscle. You can have silicone gel implants or saline implants. The scars area well tolerated, and can really be quite hidden. This is my recommended approach for breast augmentation and most board certified plastic surgeons would likely agree this statement.

The other incison, armpit or axillary, is also a possible approach. Saline and gel implants can be placed, but the maximal gel implant that can be safely placed is around 250cc. 250cc is on the smaller end of the normal request for augmentation and so, most of my patients who have inquired about this approach opt out. They usually want 325-400cc.

So remember, certain approaches like the "TUBA" may sound great, but there are limitations when incisions get further and further away from the actual site of surgery.

Charles K. Lee, MD, FACS
San Francisco Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 15 reviews

Trans-umbilical breast augmentation versus conventional augmentation.

Breast augmentation performed through the belly button is called trans-umbilical breast augmentation or TUBA. In this procedure an incision is made at the top border of the belly button. A hollow tube is then pushed through the fat layer under the skin from the belly button up to the bottom of the breast. Through this tube a space is created either under the breast tissue itself or under the muscle layer. An inflatable temporary device attached to a long filling tube is then pushed through the hollow tube into the breast pocket. This device then expanded to help create the pocket. After the pocket is created an empty saline implant attached to a long fill tube is pushed through the hollow tube and placed in the pocket. The saline implant is then filled and the attached fill tube is then removed. The implant is designed so that it seals itself after the fill tube is removed from the valve in the implant. The TUBA procedure remains controversial and is not widely recommended. Although seems ideal to minimize the visible scarring associated with breast enhancement the trade-offs are significant. With this procedure only saline implants can be utilized. The pocket is created bluntly from a remote location limiting the precision of pocket dissection. The precise creation of the ideal pocket for each patient is the key to the creation of an ideal breast shape. Because of the limited precision in creation of the pocket the revision rate of this procedure is significantly higher than other procedures done under direct vision. When the pocket is created bluntly there is more chance for postoperative bleeding. Even a small amount of blood remaining in the pocket can cause future capsular contracture. Another potential problem with this procedure is scarring in the fat tissue through which the dissection tube is placed. This can leave a permanent mark extending from the belly button up to the breast. Most patients are selecting silicone implants and would prefer a technique which results in a more predictable outcome and less chance for need for future revisional surgery.Other more conventional types of breast augmentation such as through the crease at the bottom of the breast or through an incision at the border of the areola allow for more precise development of the pocket, less chance of bleeding problems after surgery, and less need for future revisional procedures.

John J. Edney, MD
Omaha Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 117 reviews

TUBA vs other surgery techniques

TUBA is not a technique that most surgeons perform because it requires special training and higher skill. However, I have performed TUBA for years. It is safe and actually involves a shorter recovery period than other breast augmentation techniques.

The implant is placed via an incision hidden in the belly button. This leaves no visible scar anywhere near the breast. (Even the armpit incision can sometimes be very visible in a bathing suit or strapless top or dress.)

Recent advances in instrumentation make it possible to perform the operation placing the implant either above or below the muscle. As there is no cutting of tissue over the ribs, patients experience much less pain and quicker recovery – even with placement under the muscle. 

Michael Constantin Gartner, DO
Paramus Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 140 reviews

TUBA vs other incision placements

I am unsure of what you mean by conventional breast augmentation. Do you mean incisions placed in the inframmary, periareolar and transaxillary position vs transumbilical approach? 

Transumbilical breast augmentation is not popular because it makes placement of the implants more difficult. Only saline implants may be used as well since the path to the breasts has to be small, allowing only for an implant shell.

Jerome Edelstein, MD
Toronto Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 179 reviews

Transumbilical vs 'Conventional' Breast Augmentation

After reviewing the answers to this question I thought I would offer an alternative viewpoint. In my practice I have performed breast augmentation through every approach, periareolar, perithelial, inframammary, axillary and transumbilical. The transumbilical approach has virtually eliminated the axillary approach in my practice. It is true that the transumbilical approach has a significant disadvantage in that one cannot place silicone implants using this small incision and revisional surgery may not be possible through the umbilical incision. It's not clear to me how many of the responding physicians have experience with this approach but after performing hundreds of breast augmentations with this technique I can categorically state that the result should be every bit as good as when using a more common breast incision. However, for the surgeon, this approach requires giving up direct visualization of the implant pocket and may create the feeling that the control of pocket creation or blood loss is going to be a problem. I know - I shared those concerns before I actually performed the technique. However, these were concerns that never materialized. To be sure there is a 'learning curve' for the surgeon and this isn't a technique one can teach himself. However it is in my opinion a valuable technique for the woman who does not want an incision on her breast. Instead of talking these patients out of what they want I now am able to satisfy their desires to avoid breast scarring. The worst revisional breast augmentation cases I have ever seen were  surgeries that were performed through 'convention' incisions. I think bad results are possible regardless of the incisional approach. If you are really serious about a transumbilical approach see a doctor who is experienced in this approach and make a decision. Best of Luck  Dr Harrell


Jon F. Harrell, DO, FACS
Miami Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 49 reviews

Transumbilical breast augmentation is fraught with problems

Transumbilical breast augmentation (TUBA) is a form of breast augmentation which places the skin incision in the area of the belly button. Although it seems attractive to use one small incision, the biggest potential problem is placing the implants into the wrong position creating asymmetry, etc. I personally do not use this approach.

A “conventional” breast augmentation places the incisions into one of three locations: the armpit (transaxillary), around the nipple-areola complex, or in the inframammary crease (where the inferior aspect of the breast meets the chest wall).

I would recommend that you see a board certified/eligible plastic surgeon experienced in breast augmentation procedures to discuss your options.

I hope you find this helpful.

Stephen A. Goldstein, MD
Englewood Plastic Surgeon

Breast Implant Placement via Belly Button

Hi there-

Placement of breast implants via an incision around your belly button, in the TUBA technique is, in my opinion, a poorly conceived operation you would be better off avoiding.

To understand why, it's best to get a firm perspective.... I think it would be safe to assume that your interest in breast augmentation is the result of your desire for a breast shape and size that is as beautiful as possible, yes?

The reality is that attempting to place implants through a peripheral location like your belly button causes a significant compromise in the possible outcome of your breast surgery- it's simply not possible to perform delicate maneuvers for the manipulation of breast shape when trying to do so from far away by feel, rather than under direct vision in proximity to the area.

If you were going to do something delicate, wouldn't you want to be able to see what you were doing clearly and be close to what you were doing??

I do a great many breast enhancement procedures a year, but wouldn't do this operation again for anything-

Remember- the goal is to have beautiful breasts, NOT to be able to say you had implants placed through your belly button.

Armando Soto, MD, FACS
Orlando Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 159 reviews

Transumbilical vs Conventional Breast Augmentation

I'll state right up front that I think the TUBA, transumbilical breast augmentation, has few to any indications. As the saying goes "it's a long run for a short slide." The TUBA uses an incision in the belly button, a very long tunnel up to the breasts, and only saline implants can be used. My response to people is that who is going to see the areolar or inframammaryincision? What's more who's going to care? Frankly a standard breast augmentation using the inframammary or periareolar approaches takes less than an hour and either implant can be used. There is minimal discomfort.

So stick with what works and not a gimmick surgery.

Christopher L. Hess, MD
Fairfax Plastic Surgeon
4.4 out of 5 stars 34 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.