1 Week Post Op and Belly Button is Dark Red/black?

I am 8 days post op after full tummy tuck. I've had 2 appointments with the PA this week and both times he has expressed concern about the "darkenss" of my belly button. Sutures came out at 6 days post op. It continues to seep blood although not in large amounts. The inside is dark red/black. He has instructed me to continue washing with soap and water followed by antibiotic ointment in it covered with gauze and to watch it. Watch it for what? What is going on and what should I do? Concern?

Doctor Answers 11

Belly Button Necrosis

It sounds like you have at least partial necrosis of the belly button. The normal approach is to treat the area with soap and water and an antibiotic ointment until the area that is at risk becomes well defined. At that point, your surgeon will let you know the best approach to make it look as good as possible. Foe right now it sounds like the right approach. If the area becomes red, has increased pain or you get a fever, then you will need to see your surgeon ASAP , as an infection can set in.

Vacaville Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 94 reviews

Post-Abdominoplasty Dark-Red/Black Belly Button

Thank you for this challenging question.  Blood in and around the belly button after an abdominoplasty can lead to significant redness and sometimes even a black belly button.  As long as the blood supply (one artery and two veins from the liver) remain in tact, more than likely it's just subcutaneous bleeding, and when the top layer falls off, you'll find good healthy skin covering your belly button (umbillicus).  This does not eliminate the potential for total necrosis (failure to survive) of the belly button; however, this is a much rarer case.  In my experience, situations where the surgeon knows that the tissue to the belly button no longer is truly viable, if given time the resultant scar mimics the normal belly button. Therefore, I wouldn't worry much.

That being said, to improve your chances of survival of the belly button (umbillicus), I would use DMSO, alternatively every two hours with nitroglycerin paste.  These two modalities will increase the chance of revival of the blood supply to the umbillicus.

Umbilical necrosis

The concern would be regarding necrosis of the umbilicus. Many patients will have some bleeding and "duskiness" of the umbilicus, which can go on to heal nicely. However, the concerns are always for infection or lack of proper blood supply. I recommend that you see your plastic surgeon, and not a physicians' assistant, in followup. Personally, I think that you paid for the services of a plastic surgeon and that it is important for the surgeon to see the patient during the initial postop period and not to rely on the evaluation of a medical paraprofessional. This is the kind of situation that could turn out fine on its own or could need intervention .

Robert L. Kraft, MD, FACS
New York Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 40 reviews

Tummy Tuck - 1 Week Post Op and Belly Button is Dark Red/black?

You need to see the plastic surgeon who performed your surgery.

Hopefully, this will be fine and will turn out to be part of the normal healing process - but it is not normal for your BB to be dark, and to have dark fluid seeping out around it.  A small amount of either may be fine; a large amount is worrisome.  There are, of course, many potential complications associated with this surgery and tissue necrosis, including the flap and/or the BB are certainly among them.  You need to make sure that you're not having a problem like that or that, if you are, it's addressed as quickly as possible.

With no disrespect intended for your PA, you need to see your surgeon.

I hope that this helps, and good luck,

Dr. E

Alan M. Engler, MD, FACS
New York Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 125 reviews

Umbilical compromise after tummy tuck

While performing a tummy tuck, the skin around the belly button is removed as well as some of its blood supply.  If there is not enough blood supply left to keep the belly button alive, some or all of it can die.  This generally first appears as the umbilicus looking discolored a dark purple color and eventually to turn black. Sometimes it is just the superficial skin that is lost and deeper part survives and it heals with just local care. I would encourage you to see your surgeon, not the PA.

James McMahan, MD
Columbus Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 38 reviews

Partial-thickness Umbilical Necrosis Following Tummy Tuck

Your description is very consistent with vascular compromise of the belly button. Following a full tummy tuck the belly button receives all its blood supply through the stalk which has remained attached to the abdominal wall. When the blood supply is interrupted / compromised, the color of the belly button will become dark reddish, bluish, or black. It sounds as if you have experienced partial loss.

How much skin and tissue loss will occur remains to be seen; so a watch-and-wait course of action is appropriate.  Sometimes the belly button may look quite injured, but will recover just fine with almost no visible evidence that there was ever a problem. You will need to be patient because it may take 8 weeks or so to heal.

Cleansing the belly button twice daily, gently drying it, and applying a thin layer of Polysporin (double) antibiotic ointment is appropriate. You should cover the area with a light gauze dressing that is not occlusive. But it would be best to be evaluated by your surgeon, not just your PA; I personally would want to care for this problem if you were one of my patients. If you develop increasing redness, swelling, or drainage you should consult with your surgeon immediately.

Best wishes.

Kenneth Dembny, II, MD
Milwaukee Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 34 reviews

Keep it clean, allow it to heal, probably be fine

The blood supply to your belly button is compromised.  This sometimes happens after tummy tucks, even in experienced hands.  Your surgeon is correct in having you simply keep it clean and apply antibiotic ointment.  You will likely lose belly button skin ("necrosis"), but the wound is likely to heal spontaneously and the result can actually be just fine.  There is nothing to do surgically right now.  Let the body heal and then you and your surgeon can decide later whether anything more is necessary.

Eric Swanson, MD
Kansas City Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 56 reviews

1 Week Post Op and Belly Button is Dark Red/black?

Sounds like vascular compromise to the umbilical stalk or in other words necrosis of the belly button. Seek direct evaluation with the chosen operative surgeon NOT a PA!. 

Darryl J. Blinski, MD
Miami Plastic Surgeon
4.6 out of 5 stars 173 reviews

Contiue to wait

Your belly button now receives it's blood supply only  through the stalk coming up from your abdomen.  I have seen dark belly buttons that I thought for certain were necrotic, but survived just fine.  There is nothing you can do except keep it clean, covered and wait (it may take 6-8 weeks to heal).  Don't pick at the crusts too much.   There is a good chance it will survive so don't despair.

Lori H. Saltz, MD
San Diego Plastic Surgeon
4.3 out of 5 stars 28 reviews

Belly button after tummy tuck

After having a tummy tuck, it's possible for the belly button to have an inadequate blood supply to survive.  If the belly button is dark one week following surgery, it is probably best to follow its progress for the next three weeks  without surgical intervention.  You should probably see your surgeon weekly to guide you through this recovery period.  He may also prescribe an antimicrobial cream such as Silvadene to assist your healing.

David Stoker, MD
Los Angeles Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 50 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.