- A belly button breast augmentation, or TUBA procedure, is a technique in which an incision is made along the navel. Surgical tools create a tunnel through the abdomen, allowing unfilled saline implants to pass through and be inserted under or over the muscle.
- The navel incision is the latest method, having first been done in 1991, but it is not commonly performed because it requires extensive training, experience, and skill to produce pleasurable outcomes.
- Women choose the TUBA procedure for its ability to leave an undetectable scar. The incision is hidden in the rim of the navel.
- TUBA has the highest rate of implant distortion, implant malposition, and breast asymmetry when compared to other incision sites—inframammary fold, areola, transaxillary (armpit). These risks are highly dependent on surgeon expertise.
Heidi “BuffBunny” Somers and Yami Mufdi, both fitness models, trainers and YouTubers with a combined total of 754,629 subscribers, both chose to have breast implants inserted through their navels.
They each knew they wanted saline implants, no breast incisions, and no visible scarring. They only wanted to go up a cup size or two and preferred a less-invasive method.
This made them candidates for the belly button (transumbilical, TUBA) breast augmentation procedure and after consulting with surgeons who specialize in this latest technique, they began their journeys. Maybe you can too.
How belly button breast augmentation is performed
A tiny incision, either J- or C-shaped, is made at the rim of your navel. An endoscope (a lighted camera) offers sight as the surgeon uses specialized instruments to create a tunnel through the abdomen, up to the breasts.
When the breasts are reached, pocket formation begins by loosening the tissues (if the saline implants are being placed above the muscle) or dissecting the pectoralis muscle (if they are being placed under the muscle).
Temporary tissue expanders may be inserted and filled to further stretch and shape the pockets. Once the expanders are removed, unfilled saline implants are rolled up, slid through the incision, and worked up the tunnel to the breasts.
Sterile saline solution is added through a fill tube attached to the implants and when the desired number of cc’s are achieved, the internal valve is closed and sealed. The fill tube is removed.
Your surgeon examines the surgical site with an endoscope and also props you up on the table to assess symmetry and proper sizing. The navel incision is sutured and strips are applied. Elastic bands may be placed around your abdomen and/or breasts for support.
This all takes no more than 1 hour to complete.
Why choose breast augmentation through your belly button
The top reason you'd choose this procedure type is its ability to leave an undetectable scar. The incision, which is no more than 1.5 cm, is hidden within the wrinkles of your navel.
Other perks include:
- A shorter recovery time of approximately 2 weeks.
- Less post-op pain since the incision is limited, nerves are not cut, and tissues/muscle are only minimally disturbed.
- Reduced risk of infection because the small incision minimizes exposure to external bacteria.
- Maintained nipple sensation since the nerves connected to each nipple are not incised.
Why belly button breast augmentation may not be for you
There are four insertion sites for implants—the navel, inframammary fold, areola, and armpit—but not all work for every woman. Whether the TUBA procedure is right depends on your goals, those you have currently and in the future.
Women who’ve made these assessments and chosen other techniques did so because:
- More incisions if future breast surgery is needed. If there are problems with the placement of your implants and your doctor has to perform revision surgery, or if you decide to go up in size or have a breast lift later, your surgeon will likely need to make incisions along the breast. The TUBA scar, in most cases, cannot be reopened.
- High risk of breast implant distortion. Surgeons work quite a distance from the breasts, giving them less control and precision over pocket creation and implant placement.
- Only saline implants can be used. The belly button gives your surgeon only a small space to work within. Silicone implants are too large and shaped to be passed through.
- Silicone implants are better when going up more than 2 cup sizes. "It becomes an implant issue," plastic surgeon Kevin Tehrani told RealSelf.com in an interview about the procedure. "The majority of the breast tissue is made up of the breast implant and not necessarily your own breast tissue. To feel and to look natural to a certain extent, silicone is a better option."
- Can't try different implant sizes intraoperatively. Your implant size selection will need to be exact, as your surgeon cannot change out sizes during the operation.
- Cannot combine multiple breast surgeries. If you want a breast lift, breast reduction, or areola resizing at the time of your breast augmentation, your surgeon will need to make incisions along the breasts. These procedures cannot be performed through the transumbilical opening.
- Possible V-shaped tracks. The specialized instruments used to create a tunnel for your implants pass through along a V-shape. Tracks may appear along the stomach, and these can be permanent or temporary.
- Thin patients or those with excessive abdominal scarring may be exempt. If you are thin, there may not be enough fat layer to create a tunnel, and should you have extensive abdominal scarring, the surgical instruments may not go through.
Belly button breast augmentation recovery
You will be required to rest in the beginning and only take short walks to aid blood circulation and prevent blood clots. Pain is highest over the first 72 hours and occurs in the stomach and chest. Discomfort stems from bruising, swelling, as well as the manipulation of your muscles, tissues, and skin.
You may be able to return to work and social activities within days to one week of your surgery. Mufdi noted, in her breast augmentation Vlog, how other women who had the surgery were out and about in just 3 days, but she was still in bed 2 ½ weeks later and had lost some abdominal strength.
Your surgeon will instruct you on when to return to your workout, but generally, light exercise (e.g. indoor cycling or walking on a treadmill) may be resumed anywhere between the 2- to 3-week mark and by 6 weeks most, if not all, restrictions are lifted. Still be aware of certain motions. If it feels uncomfortable, stop and/or readjust. Even post-recovery, you might feel a pull on occasion while working or stretching the upper body. This is normal and tolerable, said women.
Belly button breast augmentation results
TUBA is associated with the highest rate of implant distortion, implant malposition, and breast asymmetry when compared to other breast augmentation methods. The procedure is complex and requires a board-certified plastic surgeon who is highly trained in this technique to produce desired results.
Currently, there are only a small fraction of surgeons who can do it and do it well. In the hands of talent, beautiful outcomes can be achieved.
How much it costs to get implants through your navel
Cost depends on several things, including geographical location and surgeon skill.
Mufdi, who had her procedure done in New York City off of 5th Avenue, paid roughly $10,000. Somers, who got 270cc high profile saline implants, didn’t reveal her surgical location but said she saved up her cash over a period of years and shelled out $5,800. Other women have touted figures within these ranges.
How to find and choose a qualified belly button breast augmentation surgeon
- Start by searching for board-certified plastic surgeons who are trained and experienced in this procedure. They should have performed hundreds, if not thousands, of navel breast augmentations—and on a regular basis.
- Verify these credentials through the board that certified them (the American Board of Plastic Surgery is most recognized).
- Check surgeon conduct by searching state medical boards.
- Set up consultations and ask lots of questions about their qualifications, hospital privileges, and the surgical facility.
- Look at before and after photos.
- Read patient reviews with a healthy dose of skepticism.
- Speak to previous patients.
- Trust your gut.
Both Mufdi and Somers held these steps as critical to their decision. "I did that," said Mufdi, "and that’s ultimately why I went with my doctor.”
Dowden R. (2008). Transumbilical Breast Augmentation Is Safe and Effective. Semin Plast Surg. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2884857/
Bushak L. (2016). NSFW: How Doctors Insert Breast Implants Through the Navel in Alternative Surgical Procedure. Medical Daily. Retrieved from https://www.medicaldaily.com/nsfw-how-doctors-insert-breast-implants-through-navel-alternative-surgical-393906