TUBA, or Trans-Umbilical Breast Augmentation, is an endoscopic implantation procedure, which means that the surgeon uses an endoscope, a lighted scope with a camera on a long, flexible rod, to observe from the outside what he is doing on the inside, on a monitor. What’s so unique about TUBA, is that the incision is made inside the naval, or “belly button” where it is undetectable due to the natural skin folds in that area. The short “C” or “J” shaped incision in only about an inch long, and the elasticity of the abdominal skin helps prevent the incision from stretching, which makes it even less noticeable.
To perform this procedure, the plastic surgeon inserts the endoscope diagonally from the naval up to each breast, under the skin and through the fatty tissue, which creates the “tracks”, or tunnels needed to guide the implant into position. Most surgeons will make a pocket with the endoscope, however, a few surgeons use the implant tube itself to make the pocket at the time they insert the implants.
Once the tracks are made, the plastic surgeon rolls up the breast implant, inserts it through the incision, and then works it up to the pocket. Once in place, he fills it with sterile saline to a satisfactory size and shape, then seals it closed. With the endoscope, he is able to examine the placement and surrounding tissue before closing the incision.
The TUBA breast augmentation procedure offers many advantages over traditional techniques. The short incision is between one inch and one-and-a-half inches long, and curved so that it’s entire length is within or on the edge of the naval, or umbilicus. The abdominal skin has more elasticity, which allows a shorter incision than with the areola, breast crease, or axillary sites. This location, combined with skin elasticity also helps prevent the scar from stretching, so it heals quickly and almost invisibly. Unless you tell someone it’s there, they are not likely to ever notice it.
Breast implants placed sub-glandular (above the muscle) are minimally invasive, and as such, offer the additional advantage of shorter recovery periods. There is only about 1/2 teaspoon of blood lost, and that is from the incision site. TUBA is less likely to produce infection, and there is much less pain after surgery because there is much less trauma.
When larger implants are placed with the TUBA technique, there are no incisions to stretch, so no stretching of breast scars from the additional weight, which can be a problem with traditional methods.
Surgery usually takes only 30 to 45 minutes, which, alone, offers several advantages: Anesthesia time is lessened, as is operating room time and recovery time. In turn, the chance of complications resulting from any of these aspects of your surgery is also minimized accordingly. Costs associated with these services and rooms, particularly those based on an hourly rate, are also likely to be lower.
All surgical procedures have their downsides, but the disadvantages to TUBA are minimal. The tracks may remain visible during the healing period, but usually disappear. However, in a few cases the tracks were permanent. This is due to a failure of the skin to re-adhere to the fatty tissue. While pain and discomfort are significantly reduced with TUBA, there will be pain from stretched muscles and skin, as with all procedures. Sometimes the surgeon has more difficulty placing the breast implants because of the distance between the incision site and the placement site. If there are difficulties, another site, usually the areola or crease sites will need to be used, resulting in multiple incisions and additional surgery time, and associated costs.
Although TUBA has been performed since 1991, it is the newest procedure around. Not all cosmetic surgeons are trained in this technique, so you will have to shop around to find a cosmetic surgeon qualified and experienced with TUBA. It is worth noting that the TUBA procedure will NOT void the manufacturer’s warranty, as some early rumors reported.