Abdominal Contour

Abdominal Contour

Do you want to do the laundry on your midsection (we’re talking about washboard abs here)? Regardless of your answer, a plastic surgeon can help.

The Skinny


Our abdominal muscles get a lot of attention-mostly for their appearance. They’re pretty important from a medical perspective too. They hold in all of your abdominal organs, and a good abdominal examination and stethoscope to auscultate can diagnosis a myriad of medical illnesses. For most non medical people, however, the abdomen and it’s musculature are the source of a never ending quest for improvement. Oh, and don’t forget the belly button-that scar tissue is a reminder of why you’re even alive to worry about your body contouring. So what plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery options are available for the abdominal area? More on this below.

The Specifics


What is the anatomy of the abdomen and belly button?

Six packs? Eight packs? Flab? The abs are a fixation for a lot of people. And we’ll get this out of the way now: it doesn’t matter how ripped your abs are if there’s a layer of body fat sitting over them-so crunch away, but eat right too if you want a six pack.

The abs are actually composed of multiple muscle groups both deep and superficial — we'll focus on the major ones. The rectus abdominis is the big collection of muscles in the middle that create the six pack. The internal and external obliques sit on each side of the rectus abdominis and can create the “V” appearance of the lower abs. The serratus anterior sits under the armpits and runs towards midline. The rectus abdominis muscles are connected by thick fibrous connective tissue (important for hernias and diastasis recti).

The Anatomy of the Abdominal Wall

abdominal-wall-anatomy-cross-section-illustration

Overlying the muscle tissue is the Scarpa’s fascia (subcutaneous tissue), then the fatty more superficial Camper’s fascia, and finally the skin. Each muscle layer is also wrapped in its own layer of fascia.

The umbilicus (belly button) is the remnant of your life force-where the placenta attached to you in the womb. There is fibrous tissue running behind the belly button connecting to the bladder. From a medical perspective, the umbilicus divides the abdomen into the right lower quadrant, right upper quadrant, left lower quadrant, and left upper quadrant. Belly buttons come in all shapes and sizes, and their appearance can change over the course of a lifetime.

What are the main cosmetic concerns related to the abdomen and belly button?

There are a few different concerns related to abdomen and belly button appearance. Some of these are genetic, others develop through diet and lifestyle, and some are caused by medical conditions.

  • Belly Button Appearance: The belly button is really a scar-it’s appearance is primarily determined by how your placenta stalk heals after being cut at birth. So if yours looks terrible, blame your mother's OB.
  • Belly Fat: Belly fat comes with poor diet and lack of exercise. Men are more inclined to hold excess fat in the midsection than women.
  • Diastasis Recti: Aka “abdominal separation” (the left and right muscle groups of the rectus abdominis separate due to weakened connective tissue). This mostly occurs in women postpartum. Additional risk factors include high birth weight babies, multiple previous pregnancies, and mothers over aged 35. Obese indivuals can also experience this.
  • Skin Laxity: Loose excess skin and sagging skin generally results from significant weight loss. It can also occur with natural aging.

Who may seek treatment for their abdominal contour or belly button?

Our culture is obsessed with our midsections. Having a defined and noticeable six pack is almost equivalent to sainthood. Anyone who wants to look ripped may consider an abdominal contouring procedure or repair. Men and women with undesirable belly button appearance from birth or due to weight changes or pregnancy may benefit from a belly button procedure.

How can someone improve their abdominal contour?

When it comes to abdominal contouring, there are options people! A tummy tuck (Abdominoplasty), liposuction, and belly button surgery (umbilicoplasty) can enhance, refine, and fix any midsection issues. Most of these cause bruising, limitations on strenuous activity, need for a compression garment, and plenty of time for wound healing and the healing process.

You can also view our complete guide to abdominal slimming solutions.

For Stubborn Belly Fat

You guessed it - liposuction! Options include Liposculpture, Ultrasound Assisted Liposuction, Tumescent Liposuction, Water Jet Assisted Liposuction, Power Assisted Liposuction, Laser Assisted Liposuction, Radiofrequency Assisted Liposuction, SmartLipo, and SlimLipo. Additionally injectables like Lipodissolve, laser treatments like BodyTite™, truSculpt®, Emsculpt®, and SculpSure, and fat freezers like CoolSculpting are solutions to treat excess fat. These are not a solution for weight loss. Medically necessitated weight loss can be addressed via a panniculectomy.

The Anatomy of Belly Fat

Belly Fat Anatomy Illustration

For Diastasis Recti

A diastasis recti repair is a surgical procedure to restore the abdominal wall appearance and integrity under general anesthesia. Women should consider the possibility of future pregnancies before pursuing this abdominal muscle correction.

The Anatomy of Diastasis Recti

Abdominal Wall Anatomy Illustration

For Skin Laxity

For skin laxity that comes with weight loss or age, a tummy tuck surgery like an abdominoplasty or mini tummy tuck can improve the abdominal contour by correcting skin laxity.

How can someone improve the appearance of their belly button?

Belly button surgery (a.k.a. umbilicoplasty) and/or a more involved tummy tuck can change the size, shape, and protrusion of the belly button to improve the lower abdomen appearance. Check out our complete guide to belly button correction solutions.

The Takeaway


The abdominal contour is primarily defined by our abdominal musculature. Sometimes, however, even those of us dedicated to exercising our core find a stubborn layer of fat or loose skin blocks our hard earned musculature. Additionally, issues with the belly button or abdominal wall integrity can also benefit from a cosmetic procedure to enhance, restore, and refine abdominal contouring.

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Source List

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AEDIT uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Jermaine E Gray, MD, Jason S Mizell, MD, FACS Abdominal Wall Anatomy UpToDate; 2019-06-21
  2. American Academy of Dermatology Association Cellulite Treatments: What Really Works? aad.org
  3. Mayo Clinic Staff Cellulite mayoclinic.org
  4. American Academy of Dermatology Many Ways to Firm Sagging Skin
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