Should I wear a bra after heart surgery?
I’m due to have heart surgery soon. Should I wear a bra afterwards?
Melissa Rochon says:
Women should wear a soft, non-underwired bra day and night for the month following cardiac surgery. Weight from the breasts can pull on the new wound, which may slow or compromise healing. And if the breasts shift around, particularly when you are lying down, this can place a strain on the wound.
Supporting the breasts will prevent this, improving comfort and potentially helping to reduce the risk of infection. Women are more likely than men to develop infections following heart surgery. This is partly because breast movement may reopen the wound, but also because infections are usually caused by bacteria, or sometimes fungi, which thrive in skin folds such as under the bust.
When buying a bra to wear after surgery, look for a traditional cup style, not sports bras or compression bras (used after breast surgery). You want breathing and coughing to be as comfortable as possible, especially as you may be on oxygen immediately after your surgery, so the bra shouldn’t be restrictive. Support should come from the sides, not from pressing down on the chest.
Choose a front-fastening bra if possible, especially if you have had a full sternotomy (a long incision down your chest). Even with a shorter incision, only use a back-fastening bra if someone can fasten and unfasten it for you. A front fastening also makes it easier for surgical teams to check your wound. It is really important that the bra doesn’t dig into the wound. It’s fine to leave lower hooks undone, especially while sitting, to keep pressure off the wound.
Some medications may make you retain fluid, so the bra material should be soft and have some stretch. This will stop it cutting into the skin or creating pressure sores.
Before surgery, check for skin breaks or infection under the breasts and make sure they are treated.
At our hospitals, we use the BHIS bra (pictured above). It was designed especially for heart patients. It is available in a range of sizes for £29.63 by calling 0800 279 2050 or visiting CUI wear website. Or ask at your pre-admission clinic – staff may know where suitable bras are available.
Meet the expert
Melissa Rochon is a Quality and Safety Lead for Surveillance at Royal Brompton and Harefield hospitals.