Dr. Nassif Soueid of St. Joseph Medical Center in Baltimore, Md., and his colleagues, for example, take two to six hours for such a surgery and perform it with the patient fully anesthetized. They cut horizontally above the pubic hairline, and then make an incision around the bellybutton so it remains connected with the body. They then take weakened abdominal muscles and repair, tighten and suture them.
The surgeons clip off unneeded skin and fat, pull the belly skin toward the rib cage, trim it and craft a new hole for the bellybutton. The physicians then introduce small plastic drains - which stay in place for 12 to 18 hours - and then close the incision with stitches and dress it. Risks include bleeding, scarring, infection and blood clots. "We try to work together," Soueid says of his team, "to make the surgery faster and get the patient off the table faster."
Such an abdominal procedure costs between $10,000 and $18,000. Contouring of the arms or legs runs about $7,000. This surgery is also frequently used for the breasts, arms and thighs. Swelling is common for up to 10 days, and it's frequent for it to take a year to see the final result.