DIEP flap Belly button

DIEP flap Belly button

Did you know you’ll be getting a new belly button if you choose to have DIEP flap breast reconstruction after a mastectomy?  The study referenced in this blog uses the medical term, umbilical reconstruction, known to most of us as the belly button.  We’re approaching belly button season so I wanted to share this part of my DIEP flap surgery along with the study while having a bit of fun with this post, too!

DIEP flap belly buttonI had the privilege of meeting one of the authors of the study last year at Plastic Surgery the Meeting (#PSTM16) in Los Angeles, Dr. Samuel Lin.  He is a kind gentleman with a warm smile and easy to chat with.  It is apparent he is very dedicated to his profession.  Dr. Lin presented the paper at AAPS (American Association of Plastic Surgeons) meeting in Austin, Texas this year.  I became interested in this study when it was mentioned on Twitter.

During DIEP flap the plastic surgeon cuts an elliptical shape area of your tummy cutting up and around the belly button.  The cut is made keeping the umbilical cord that lies under the skin intact.  The top line of that elliptical area is then pulled down and sewn just above the public line.  So, what happens to that underlying umbilical cord and where does the new umbilicus appear?

The umbilicus is the actual scar or indented area where the umbilical cord connected you to your mother.  Now you get a new umbilicus!  What shape will that new belly button be; diamond, oval or “inverted V”? The study evaluates which of these three shapes the general population prefers?

The method used from the study:

Methods: From January-April 2013, 23 patients underwent DIEP flap breast reconstruction and intra-operatively they were randomized to receive one of three umbilicoplasty types: a diamond (n=7), oval (n=7), or ‘inverted V’ incision (n=9). Plastic surgeons and members of the general public, identified using an online ‘crowdsourcing’ platform, evaluated aesthetic outcomes in a blinded fashion. Reviewers were shown pre- and post-operative photographs of the umbilicus of all 23 patients and a four-point Likert scale enabled them to rate the new umbilicus on the size, scar formation, shape, localization and overall appearance.

The Preferred Choice for Belly Buttons is…

Survey says: The general population prefers the aesthetics of the oval belly button.

My DIEP Flap Belly Button

When I woke up from my DIEP flap surgery one of the first things I remember my husband saying to me was, “Well, you got a nice new belly button.”  I am fairly certain he was referencing my old one before my DIEP flap that had been stretched out from two very healthy boys during pregnancy.  The other memory I had in the hospital was the morning my plastic surgeon walked in for morning rounds to see how I was progressing.  I mentioned to him that my husband told me I had a nice new belly button.  I jokingly told him I may need to celebrate with a belly button piercing.  He smiled a bit and told me a sapphire might be nice.

My new belly button was covered with gauze when I woke up.  The gauze soon came off. Now I simply had to let the scab heal before the big reveal and what my new belly button would look like.  It reminded me of waiting for my sons’ belly button scabs to fall off shortly after their birth.  My DIEP flap surgery was on December 1, 2014.  Unbelievably, on New Year’s Eve, December 31, the scab fell off.  Happy New Year and happy new belly button!  I was pleased with my new oval umbilical reconstruction.

DIEP flap belly buttonWhen I told my hubby about the study I asked him to snap some photos so that the reader could see an actual umbilical reconstruction result.  I also told him to get my abdominal scar in the photo.  It’s unbelievable how well it has faded in two years.  Not everyone will have the same results as I did.  We all heal differently because of our individual pigmentation.

We had some fun standing in different sunlight out by our pool in my bikini to get the right angle.  Yes, you heard me, my bikini!  A girl must show off that new belly button so why cover it up?

DIEP flap belly buttonAfter the photo shoot with hubs, we picked out some fun, temporary tattoos for my tummy.  I don’t even remember where I found these but it was an appropriate time to use them.

 

Many thanks to hubsphotos.com for my photo shoot. Oh, by the way Dr. C, I love my new belly button! We picked out the mustache for you. The package didn’t have a tattoo with a goatee. Close enough.

 

 

Disclaimer

References made to my surgical group, surgeon and healthcare team are made because they are aligned with my values and met my criterion after I did research of their practices and success rates. Any other healthcare provider that displays the same skill, compassion education and outreach to patients will be given consideration and recognition on this website.  The information contained on this website is not a substitute for or should be construed as medical advice. Please consult a licensed physician for medical advice.
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About Terri

I am a patient educator and advocate for choices in breast reconstruction after a mastectomy. Statistically, many women are not being informed of their choices due to many factors. Breast reconstruction is a personal choice. Providing information and education about those choices is a patient rite. It is the mission and focus of my work to provide that education and information.