Bras And Breast Support After Open Heart Surgery… Can You Help Vicki? (Updated)

Don’t let the title of this blog fool you. There is no weird, sexy, fetish thing going on here. 🙂

Instead… With this post, I am asking for HELP from the female, heart surgery patients that regularly read this blog.

Specifically, Vicki is preparing for open heart surgery in three days. She just emailed me an urgent question about the use of bras after cardiac surgery. I have some thoughts on the topic (even though I don’t have breasts). But, I imagine a few of our female patients – that means you Becca, Joanne, Heather – might have some interesting advice for Vicki. That said, can you help her?

To give you some more background, here is Vicki’s email to me. She writes, “Hi Adam – I am three days away from open heart surgery and even though I am still very nervous, I feel as prepared as I think I can. I even went and visited the hospital where I will have the surgery. It is a beautiful facility in Plano, Texas. It is called the “Heart Hospital.” Doctor William Ryan is my surgeon.”

She continues, “One question keeps nagging me and this is probably best answered by the female patients that you may have interviewed. What about a bra? I have heavy breasts and I can see that this could be a problem after valve surgery. I was just wondering how soon after surgery will I be able to wear a bra and does anyone have any suggestions about this?”

That said, do you have any tips, tricks or thoughts about using a bra after heart surgery? If so, click here to leave Vicki a comment.

Update: If you scroll below, you will see that 60+ patients have already commented on this blog.

Thanks everybody!

Keep on tickin!

Adam Pick
Written by Adam Pick

Adam Pick is a patient, author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery and the founder of

To learn how Adam has helped millions of people with heart valve disease, watch Adam's video, subscribe to his free newsletter, or visit his Facebook, or Twitter pages.

  • Hi Vicki (and Adam and all readers),

    My mom just had surgery in the same hospital with the wonderful Dr. Ryan. She is 84 and has had a radical mastectomy, so she needs to wear a bra and a prosthesis. She has been wearing both comfortably ever since her discharge, 10 days after surgery. She has never indicated that it was a problem. I was her primary caregiver for three weeks afterwards and the only issue with the bra was getting some help to hook it behind her. She didn’t even need help all the time, just some days.

    Good luck – you will be fine!


  • Shelley Cherry

    I am 3 wks PO valve replacement surgery. When I asked the education nurse in my surgeons office about a bra prior to surgery I was told that they would like you back in a bra as soon as possible after surgery. It provides support and eases some of the stress or pulling on the incision. She said an older, soft, and kind of stretched out bra works best. Immediately after surgery they put something similar to a totally elasticised tube top that fastened with heavy duty velcro on me. I wore that until after my first shower when I replaced it with a bra. Also, the nurse told me to wear a bra 24 hours a day. I am still doing that. Not sure when I’ll go to daytime only. A website I looked at suggested a front closure bra but my back closure bras have worked fine. Good luck!

  • Becca Allison

    I can understand your concern! I am three weeks post surgery, and I was able to wear a regular bra two weeks after surgery. I probably could have worn one earlier, but didn’t try to! I am not very large in that area, so support was a non-issue! I usually wear stretchy sports bras, but found they were a little hard to pull on with sore chest muscles, so I went with a standard bra. It really did not irritate my incision at all. I wouldn’t suggest wearing a very tight one. If it touches the incision at all, I imagine you could put a pad in between.
    Best wishes on your surgery! I’m doing great – just remember to do your breathing exercises after surgery and walk as much as you can. Don’t overdo, but do push yourself just a little! I switched activities a lot, as I got tired of one, I’d switch to another. Take care! Becca

  • Joanne Harris

    Hi Vicki — I’ll send my good, positive thoughts to you for your surgery. I had valve repair 5 months ago. And I’m a woman, so I can tell you that my experience with the bra dilemma was that the surgeon told me to wear a bra all the time, for the first “few” weeks. So I wore a somewhat loose sports-type bra, and it felt good. Like an added layer of holding my chest together (which you totally don’t need to worry about, but I did anyways). If you can get one that fastens in back, that’s even better, because lifting your arms can be a bit uncomfortable for a while.

  • Bev Newman

    I am also having an Aortic Valve replacement in about 5 days. I asked the nurse in my Surgeon’s office about a bra. She suggested a sports bra.
    I checked them out, and most have a heavy elastic band at the bottom.
    I found one at WalMart(of all places) manufactured by Danskin that seems to have a more pliable and softer band at the bottom. We older girls do sag a little, and flapping in the breeze doesn’t seem comfortable to me.

  • Carol Lang

    Explain your concerns to your surgeon before surgery. You are not the first woman to have this problem. Don’t be surprised if you wake up with a post-op bra on! There have been documented studies to prove these actually reduce the incidence of pulling on the suture line, thus controlling pain better & promoting healing sooner. I’m sure this hospital has them in their surgical supply area.
    I know these things, because I’m the former ICU RN that became the ICU patient during my recent mechanical aortic valve replacement. (See recent blog)
    Hope this helps.

  • To Cynthia, Shelley, Joanne, Becca, Bev and Carol –


    I mean… Double “WOW!

    Thanks so much for your rapid-fire help on this topic of bras and heart surgery!!!

    These are great insights that I’m sure will help Vicki, as well as, future patients / caregivers all over the world!!!

    Keep on tickin!


  • Vicki M

    Thank you everyone. All of the responses are very helpful. I guess I’m not the only one to worry about such things. Of course, it seems the past couple of weeks, I have worried about everything. If not worry, just thinking about stuff. My closest friends and family might say I have been obsessing. With such a surgery coming up you just can’t help but wonder if you have done all you need to do. I also wonder if I have said all I need to say and if everyone knows how much I love them, etc. Maybe the bra question was just my way of joining in the blog. :). Anyway, good info. Adam, this is all very helpful. I will let you know how it goes.


  • Mickey

    Hi Vicky!

    I just had my mitral valve replaced 3 weeks ago. This topic was something I forgot to plan for unti the moment came for me to get dressed to go home from the hospital! I realized that there was no way I could wear a bra….I had my valve replaced using the DaVinci robot (the repair did not work and my surgeon then performed a mini thoracotomy) my incisions may be different from what you may be expecting depending on your specific procedure. However, I found that wearing a sports bra in a larger size was more comfortable and I could finally tolerate wearing it but it took about 16 days (including the 10 days in the hospital). I can now wear a non-underwire bra with little discomfort. Good luck!

  • Vicky,

    I had open heart surgery 7 weeks ago and had my pulmonary valve replaced. I did not wear anything for the 1st 3-4 weeks post-op but since I’m an adult congenital patient, I’ve started my own support network of other heart patients in NY. One of the best pieces of advice I got was to get a light support sports bra from GapBody which I did and I have to say it is fabulous. I now actually own 3 of them and I figure I’d just use them for pilates/yoga afterwards. Other stores make light support sports bras as well. Since I had low amounts of sternum pain, I was able to switch to a regular bra at about 5 weeks but still have occasional issues with certain types.

    Hope this helps,


  • Charlotte

    I also have very large breast and the hospital that I went to went down to rehab and got a bra for me that fastened in the front. It worked great.

  • Marcy Pugh

    Hi Vickie,
    I too was concerned about wearing a bra while recovering from my aortic heart valve replacement which was done on 5/15 just 5 days after my 75th birthday. Let me tell you, I went without a bra for the next two months while healing my chest incision. Believe me, there is absolutely no one out there who cares if your nipples show through a shirt or top. So what, and everyone will definitely understand if you are not wearing a bra that is uncomfortable and binding.
    Good luck,

  • Niki Reis

    Hi Vickie,
    I just had aortic valve replavement surgery August 01. I bought a few bras withour wires and they helped for coming home from the hospital and the firs few days at home. Actually I became more uncomfortable not wearing a bra, no support. This week I have been wearing my normal bras (with wires) going to the doctor and food shopping. I admit after dinner time the bra comes off!!
    I understand the feeling about worrying or thinking about everything. I was the some way partly because of my need to control everything. The surgery was not as bad as I thought but obviously not a walk in the park either. 13 days after surgery I am cooking dinner for my family, doing the laundry and exercising (walking or the treadmill) twice a day for 15 minutes. Nights are a problem for me, I find it difficult to sleep a lot so I take naps during the day. I hav no tolerance for pain meds so I am just on 2 tylenol 3 or 4 times a day. Everyone’s body is different.
    Best of Luck, I will be praying for you. To be honest that is what gets me through the day, Prayer.


  • Vicki M

    Niki, wow you sound like an amazing person. I’m amazed at what you are getting done. I don’t do that much now! Well, I guess the whole point is for me to have more stamina and energy when this is all over. For some reason, today has been particularly difficult but I have had many reminders from friends, family and new online buddies like yourself, that many prayers are coming my way. That whole control thing is quite a drag. I have had a couple of people to tell me that it is my turn to let other’s be in control and let them take care of me. Okay, I promise. I’ll try. Thanks for the encouraging words.

    This blog has really helped me a lot. It’s a good thing that I was so curious about the bra issue. Adam, this is a great service that you are providing. I have taken something away from every single response.

  • Becca Allison

    Niki !!!
    So glad to see you came through OK! I was praying for you! Sounds like your recovery’s going about like mine. I had my surgery July 22, and I am cooking, doing laundry, walking for over an hour each morning and the like. I am being good about not lifting heavy stuff and not driving for the first month, but other than that, I sorta try stuff and if it doesn’t hurt, I keep doing it!
    Vicki, do let others help you. Don’t think of it as your being out of control – think of it as you are giving them a gift by letting them help you. I found that people really rally round the first week or so, then it tapers off! After that, you are back in control and have to tell them what you need!
    All you ladies are great! We should start a club and call it, “Adam’s Amazons” or something!!! LOL!

  • Vicki

    I never thought that I would be participating in an online support group but this is great. I want to meet you all, know what your life is like, how old you are, how long you have had heart valve issues, how well you deal with weepiness, significant other issues, etc. (I hope my husband doesn’t divorce me over this. he has been a saint.) I feel sure that there are a lot of issues that are specific to women and that the men also have specific issues (not sure if I said that in a way that made sense but hopefully you get my point.) I’m also tending to ramble a lot these days. Anyway, my friends and family are wonderful but i don’t think anyone can fully understand unless they have experienced it themselves.
    1. are you being to sensitive?
    2. when your support group try to be helpful, are you sometimes snappy?
    3, do you feel the need to talk to everyone you have ever known?
    4. will I be able to sleep comfortably (not a great sleeper now)?
    5. are you unreasonable? (I called my daughter to tell her to not worry about being at the hospital during surgery but I was then hurt when she told me “well Mom, I was coming on my lunch hour and maybe before they put you to sleep” I”m never happy.)
    6. do you worry about bathroom issue? clothing issues? car riding issues? eating issues? (I admit it, I’m a food snob and I’m afraid that I will be living on fast food)

    The bottom line is that we are having surgery so that we will feel better and have a better quality of life. My plan is to feel 15 years younger. I have wasted way to many years feeling crappy.


    Adam, I think I got off the subject here. Sounds like a new blog! How much time do you spend on facilitating the website?

  • fazilat

    hi Vicki and Adam

    this question is so relevant, reading the other replies US seems well ahead as i am 14 weeks post op aortic valve replacement, being top heavy i asked the same question to my admitting doctor and her reply was no bra for three months,till three days after the op my assistant surgeon made me walk to see how I was doing did he ask me the embarassing question “where is your bra” he then advised me to get a bra so i opted for a soft sports bra one size bigger and have just gone to wearing normal wired bra the other thing to remember is to wear the bra 24/7 for at least 12 weeks so the support is there. sorry for the long reply but i have been frustrated with the lack of info for ladies and especially for those of us who are muslims and hijabis.
    thank you

  • Elaine

    Hi Vicki,

    I had my aortic valve replaced April 4 and my only reccomendation is to wear a bra that fastens in the front. It’s so much easier to put on and remove, especially if you’re home alone at all early in your recovery. And believe me, you WILL want to wear a bra, even in bed. You’ll need that support.

    As Adam mentioned in his extremely helpful book, if it’s at all possible, for the first week, maybe two, sleep in a recliner. Getting up from a prone position is really tough for that first week or two.

    Above all, don’t rush yourself. If you feel up to doing things, then go for it, but if you’d rather just veg for a while, then do it. You know best how you feel and what you feel capable of, and don’t let anyone try to tell you otherwise.

    Good Luck!!

  • Rosemary Geraci

    My aortic valve was replaced June 23 and I’ve thought about answering questions in this blog, but never have before today. I didn’t even think about a bra until a couple of weeks ago, and then only for church, etc. Instead of buying larger sports bras that I probably would discard soon, I found two bras that are REALLY stretched in the elastic area and have been wearing them. My incision is really sensitive, so sometimes I wear a chami and then layer a light jacket over a shirt.

    I was terrified of the ventilator before the surgery, but I was extremely lucky. My surgery was at the DeBakey Heart Department of Methodist Hospital in Houston.
    The longest a patient remains on the ventilator there is one hour. If the patient is not ready to come off in that length of time, they are put back under sedation until they can make it on their own. I don’t even remember the ventilator, so my worst fears weren’t experienced.

    The complications I experienced are another thing, for another time.

    Rosemary Geraci

  • Sylvia

    Hello my new ‘friends’! I was surfing the Internet to see If I can find a right bra for my mom’s coming soon valve replacement surgery (sept 23rd) and after I read all of your comments I felt better about all me and my family concerns about this procedure, specially the ventilator. My mom is 7f4 yrs old and we are very concern about how she is going to respond to the surgery. Thanks for all of your comments. They are very helpfull.

  • Rosemary Geraci

    Sylvia, The ventilator was my biggest pre-op fear. Post-of I didn’t even remember it! If you are at a large hospital that does a lot of open heart surgery, they have the ventilator problems resolved. The patient is on the device for a much shorter time than previously. They also use a medication, “Versed”–not sure of the spelling. The patient does not remember a lot of the unpleasantness of the ICU.

    I’m only four years younger than your mother, so I pray that her experience is as good as mine was.

  • Barbara J.

    Adam’s book and this blog are so reassuring.

    I am months ahead of surgery and suffering anxiety already. The bra info was very helpful; something I hadn’t thought of.

    I am 62 and will need an aortic replacement. I have some questions:
    1. I can see the advantage of having surgery close to home if a person has a support system of people who can really help out, but I don’t. I’ll probably have to hire help to be at home. Any suggestions for finding help?
    2. Also, with my insurance and savings I could go to one of the top rated hospitals which would be reassuring to me. However, the advantage of being close to home would be that people could visit. I’m torn which way to go. Anyone out there who has had this dilemna? Any thoughts?
    3. Adam said he was shaved all over. Is that common practice for all valve replacements?

    Barbara J.

  • Winona Blake

    I am scheduled for mitral valve repair with the daVinci robot assist at Cleveland Clinic on Sept 17. I also have mitral valve prolapse, since birth. At 70 years of age it suddenly decided to degenerate and now I have severe regurgitation with symptoms of heart failure for the past 2 months (SOB, some leg swelling, fatigue, lightheadness, etc). I need both leaflets repaired and my tricuspid valve repaired, also. Possibly the chordae repaired.

    As the date draws nearer, I have also been wondering about wearing a bra. I will inquire about what CC uses, especially as I intend to be using the pain pump system that uses local anesthetic at the incisions. (I cannot tolerate narcotic pain meds.) The other suggestions are helpful.

    This website and your book such valuable resources. Thank you, Adam.

    I plan to use caringbridge to stay in touch with friends and family back in NH (my husband and daughter will be in Cleveland with me).

    I like the idea of a support group for us females.

    Winona Blake

  • kc

    Hi Winona,

    My sister just had mitral and aortic replacement at the Cleveland Clinic on the 9th of Sept.(one week ago). she was given a velcro bra to wear. the only problem is the velcro sticks to everything when she is not wearing it. Playtex makes a front hook bra that she has gotten. Also to Barbara J.: if you can get to a highly rated facility (the Cleveland Clinic was fantastic) I think it is worth it. My sis had to have the mitral & aortic redone after a local surgeon was unsuccessful. Although she was close to home the first time, her recovery was very slow, had more pain, and as I already mentioned, ultimately unsuccessful. The CC has a wide variety of supports and you can contact them online and/or talk to an RN. The thing they talk about is to look at the stats regarding complications and compare those. If your local facility has comparable stats maybe it is okay to have it done locally. Don’t mean to sound like a commercial for the CC, but our experience was so much better there than local.

  • kc

    Barbara J.,

    P.S. I almost forgot, my sister was only in hospital for 5 days plus one day in town for pre-op testing, so its really only about a week that you would be without visitors (barring complications).


  • Vicki M

    Barbara, I know that you are nervous. I certainly was. I am now 4 weeks post op. If things goes as well for you as they did for me, you shouldn’t need much help. My surgery was open heart and I expected to not be able to get in and out of bed by myself. We even contemplated a hospital bed. I didn’t need it. I was in the hospital for 7 days and by the time I left the staff had made me very comfortable about moving around. Here are a few things that might help.
    1. Have your pharmacy use the non-childproof bottles or have someone open them and just don’t close them until you are finished. Of all things, that was a problem for me.

    2. wear the bra. Even though mine hits right where the drain tube was, if I don’t wear the bra my breasts cause weight and pressure. I tried going without for about 30 minutes and then just decided it wasn’t worth it. I even sleep in one and I never did that before.

    3. do your post op therapy but definitely don’t push yourself. Rest.

    4. talk to your family and friends.

    5. don’t worry if the beds not made, the floors aren’t vacuumed, the laundry is behind. Who cares? The first housework that I did was wash some underwear and pjs that I needed. I got them dried and then I just pulled out what I needed. No folding and putting things away. not going to happen.

    Good luck and I hope your surgery goes as well as mine. I haven’t felt this good in 10 years. I thought I was old but I was just needing a repair job.

  • Jenny

    Good evening everyone, I am facing a challenging time as I am preparing for open heart surgery for a congenital heart defect soon. I feel completely unprepared and am not sure where to start. I am 35 years old and am wondering if the book The patient’s guide to heart valve replacement can apply to my surgery, as the surgeons will be patching up a pretty large hole in my right atrium. Thank you and God BLess.

  • jl

    I recently had heart surgery and I recommend that each woman wear a soft supportive bra. I find that the bra without an underwire is just fine, maybe using the same size or a larger size just in case if the patient retains water.
    I actually used my old bra but just removed the underwire.
    Good luck to all heart surgery patients.

  • Joni


    I will be having valve surgery in 3 days. I hadn’t even thought about what to do about a bra. My surgeon is going to replace my aortic valve and based on how my mitral valve looks he is going to repair or replace it.
    I am 43 years old and am trying not to be worried. I have complete confidence in my surgeon as he performed bypass on my father in law 18 years ago.
    Should I call the hospital to see what they recommend? Or should I go and buy a sports bra that opens in the front?

  • I have read with interest other peoples experiences I have had an aortic valve replacement 8 weeks ago at Harefield Hospital I was told by a cardiac nurse to wear an old bra which I had ready with the wires removed and also bought others but I did find that they had a tendency to press on the wound but I resolved it by tying a piece of ribbon round the centre of the bra and tying it tightly and it pulled the centre away from my scar. No pressure no problem hope this helps

  • Glena Cullins

    Hey! I think I am a bit younger than the group. I just turned 26 and 3 weeks from today I will be having a Ross repair which will be up to a pulmonary and arotic valve replacement. I have been trying to decide what bra would be best for me. My first surgery was when I was 14 and I barely pushed an A cup and didn’t have to wear anything until after I got home and I just wore sports bras for awhile. Now that I am 26 my chest is not large by any means a small C. I am not sure I will need much of a bra. Problem is that I cannot sleep at all with one on. Will they require you to wear one at all times?

  • Kate

    I am 58 and had my aortic valve replaced due to a congenital defect. Everything went well; I had a terrific surgeon and my family to care for me. Cardio rehab really made a difference and I have more energy and can do things I never could before. One thing that still bothers me after 9 months is that my sternum still hurts with weather changes and coughing and my right breast still hurts; not enough to stop be from doing what I want, just annoying. Anyone else experience this?

  • Sharon

    HI – I’m 40, and will be having open heart surgery. They are replacing my aorta and valve, as I have an aortic aneurysm. This came as a complete shock to me as I’m in great health. I’m a DD, and my girlfriend actually sent me this blog to read so I could get some advice on a bra to wear, post op. So thank you to everyone who has replied. Sounds like a size bigger, maybe a sports bra, a tube top style, maybe without underwire seems to be some of the top choices. Vicki M – you sound completely normal to me, all the questions and thoughts running through your head. I am a single parent with an 8 year old autistic son. He has no idea what will be happening to Mom. I am thankful my heart problem was found, as I have more work to do.

  • stephanie g

    Hi Sharon
    i am recovering from Aortic valve replacement and am now 6 weeks post-op, i am the same age as you and i also have a big bust ‘G’!! best advice i can give you is when you are able to wear a bra keep the cup size the same but i would recommend a bigger back size ( i went to a 36G instead of a 34~) keep them plain, soft cups and simple, no bows on the middle part etc and definetly NO WIRES! it is still a little uncomfortable on the wound but by the time you can get your bra on (after all the drips and drains have been removed) you will be a little more mobile. it is up to you whether you decide to sleep in your bra.
    i also have a 4 yr old little boy and he has been amazing throughout my recovery and gave me the best motivation to recover quickly. hope this helps and good luck.

  • Randi

    Hi Sharon!
    I am so excited to have read your post…I also have a son, 2 years old, as well as a super supportive husband. I am a large chested, 32 year old, who is almost more scared about what kind of bra to wear post op than about the entire surgery…I am scheduled for July 7th, 2011 for my Open Heart Surgery…Thanks so much for this amazing website & ‘friends’ who know what it’s like!

  • Kate Cole

    Hi Randi,
    I had aortic valve replacement last year. Do get a comfortable bra that does not have wires in it. Sports bras are good but a good supportive bra will work. You might want to go a little bit larger on the size at first. I just wore it at the most loose adjustment for awhile. At the hospital I was at they gave me a sort of brace to “hold myself” which was good.
    On another thought; have an i-pod programed with music that helps you relax and have someone connect it for you in the icu once you are somewhat awake. It really helps you relax and regulate your breathing. Good luck to you Randi. Each day after surgery you will begin to feel better and eventually will be even better than you were before.

  • Nicola

    Hi Sharon,

    I saw my doctor this week because I have been feeling strange rapid motions in my heartbeat. I was told I had aortic aneurysm and will be having an ECG on 13th July for testing. I had no idea what a heart murmur was and came across this brilliant blog tonight (its now 3.25am and Ive been reading it for well over an hour). So many brave women on here. My Dad had a heart valve replacement when he was 60. I decided in my head straight away there was no way I would have any operation. However, after reading how dangerous this can condition can be, and reading how so many women have gone through this op and survived ok !, I may have to prepare myself differently and consider more options. I’m only 42, and thought i’m much too young yet to worry about such a thing. However, you are only 40 and are booked in to have the op next week. This blog is fantastic and stops you feeling alone, scared and in the dark on the subject. I hope my ECG says I have nothing to worry about. I wish you all the very best of health, and good luck for your operation on July 7th, Sharon, I hope you have a speedy recovery. If I get told I need to have an op, I will be back on this blog.

  • Linda bushyager

    Nicolas, definitely follow doctor’s advice and get surgery if needed. I had aortic valve replacement six weeks ago and am doing fine. My mother also had aortic stenosis and was told to get operation, she refused, and died of heart failure at 79. She probably would be alive now if she had had surgery.
    Re bra, after surgery the hospital put me into a horribly tight one, far smaller than my large frame, very uncomfortable. I realized I should get one from home, and my husband brought it in, and they said that was fine. They wanted me to wear 24 hrs a day. Even now surgeon says I should be wearing one for support to keep Incison from opening, which seems dumb to me after 6 weeks, so I have been wearing it with clasp unfastened, just to hold breasts during night and when just sitting around. The incision is just a scar now and causing little pain.
    After incision heals u can use something like Mederma to reduce scar.
    By the way, I had a cow valve replacement, which new research says may be better than pig valve. In any case open heart surgery is much safer than years ago, and valve replacement usually has u in hospital 5-7 days.
    Good luck and let us know how u are doing

  • Chris

    I am so glad I found this site. I am going in for valve repair (and maybe more) the day after tomorrow and I’d been wondering about bras. Not only have I found some helpful answers here but also some comforting words as I can’t help but be a little fearful. Thanks to everyone and I hope you are all enjoying better health.

  • Susan

    I want to thank everyone for their input on bras. I really didn’t have a clue about how to handle that after my bypass surgery. Thanks for the info.

  • Louise Poynton

    Hi eveyone
    My name is Louise and I am from the UK. I feel so reassured now that I have found this site. I have so many questions, not just about bras but about everything. Done lots of research about the practical things but what about the emotional side? I am normally so in control of my life but suddenly I feel so vulnerable. I feel very lucky that I am having this operation as my sister(58 yrs) and nephew (33) both died last year from the conditon that I have been diagnosed with (arortic aneurism and possible valve replacement)I am not good at asking for help!!

    Hope that being in UK does not stop this email reaching all you wonderful women in USA.


  • Laura Arwood

    This blog entry helped after aortic valve replacement on April 19, 2012 but I had to modify the tips found here. My sister the nurse suggested I post what ended up working for me just in case there are other obese women with large breasts who are having open heart surgery.

    My cup size is G (one size larger than DDD) and since I’m morbidly obese, each one weighs more than most small dog breeds! They put a tremendous pull on the part of the incision between my breasts.

    The three things that worked best to heal my incision were:

    1: Front closure cotton bras that gave a fair amount of support worn day and night.

    I wore Comfort Choice bras available online from OneStopPlus. They go up to size 54 G (Please note: I am not endorsing or getting a kickback or work for companies. This is just a place where large size bras are available)

    2. Rolled up cotton hand towels to lend more support..

    I placed the rolled towels underneath each breasts to help lift and separate during the day. Then I moved the towels to the side when sleeping on my back to prevent the breasts from pulling the incision apart.

    3. Not moving around a lot until the incision was totally healed.

    This was absolutely the toughest part. I felt great within two weeks of coming home and wanted to be up, around and about. But I quickly learned that movement made my breasts pull on the incision. Under threat of being slapped back into the hospital, I learned to stay still in a reclined position – literally in a recliner. It was what worked.

    Not having proper support via the bra and the towels caused the incision to pull apart (think its called dehiscence). Leaning forwarded, sitting up too much or moving around for too long caused plasma to ooze out of parts of the incision where it had pulled apart and then started to heal across the gap.

    Sorry for length of post and rambling. I’d edit to make shorter but it’s time to get back to my recliner….last little bit of incision still healing. Sigh. Thinking one more week should do it.

  • Hetty

    Hi everyone,

    Thank goodness i found this blog.
    I am having open heart surgery for a congenital problem in a few weeks.
    I and terrified, and have lots of questions that seem obsessive to some.
    One of which was the bra question as i also have big breast and have
    been concerned about the extra tugging on the wound site.

    Thank you all for putting your experiences on here for others to read.
    I am so scared and reading of others having survived similar operations
    is reassuring


  • Laura Arwood

    Best wishes to you Hetty. Good thoughts are coming to your way!

    One more tip: When I first came home, I was too sore for even cotton leisure bras. My friend Daniela bought 100% cotton t-shirts and tank tops (Walmart $6), cut them down the front and we tied them in front like Mary Ann on Gilligan\’s Island. This kept my breasts separated and lifted as well and helped the incision be stable.

    My incision finally closed entirely after 9 weeks. Yeah! Now I\’ve started cardiac rehab and swimming, which feels great.

  • Hetty

    Thanks for your reply Laura,

    I still have three weeks until surgery, i am still freaking out.
    I stumbled upon this blog site and am sooooo grateful.
    This has to be the scariest thing i have ever had to face.
    The feeling of loss of control, being emotional, and worrying
    about almost every aspect of the surgery and how i will manage
    post operatively is driving me crazy. Will i be able to sleep
    laying down, or would a recliner be more comfortable initially?
    The T shirt tip sounds like a great idea, i will keep that in
    mind. I went out yesterday and bought a couple of soft
    front opening bras, they don’t seem very supportive, but
    i guess they have to be better than nothing. My breasts are
    E size, so have a bit of weight in them 🙂
    I hope your recovery is continuing smoothly, and once
    again thank you so much for your tips on this blog.


  • Hetty

    Thanks for your reply Laura,

    I still have three weeks until surgery, i am still freaking out.
    I stumbled upon this blog site and am sooooo grateful.
    This has to be the scariest thing i have ever had to face.
    The feeling of loss of control, being emotional, and worrying
    about almost every aspect of the surgery and how i will manage
    post operatively is driving me crazy. Will i be able to sleep
    laying down, or would a recliner be more comfortable initially?
    The T shirt tip sounds like a great idea, i will keep that in
    mind. I went out yesterday and bought a couple of soft
    front opening bras, they don’t seem very supportive, but
    i guess they have to be better than nothing. My breasts are
    E size, so have a bit of weight in them 🙂
    I hope your recovery is continuing smoothly, and once
    again thank you so much for your tips on this blog.


  • Laura Arwood

    Hi Hetty. I am doing fantastic now that I’m mobile again. Except for the incision taking so long to close (which didn’t hurt. It was just sooooo frustrating to stay still!), I’ve been feeling pretty well all the way along.

    Large cup sizes don’t necessarily mean plus size women but to reassure any who are reading here, I weigh 325 pounds so my weight (and my very large heavy breasts) were quite the added risk factor. I found my cardiothoracic surgeon by asking the surgeon doing my upcoming weight loss surgery for a recommendation. That’s how I ended up with Dr Gaca at Duke University Hospital, who did a wonderful job.

    The rolled up towel tip also adds support than so you may want to try that. I am still using that trick as my regular bras rub the bottom of my incision a bit raw, especially during cardiac rehab. Also, the cotton bras in a previous post link provide more support than most ones. They recently went up in price though 🙁

    As for sleeping, I was lucky enough to borrow a hospital bed for the first few weeks but then switched to a recliner. Someone else would definitely have had to pull the wooden foot rest lever on my recliner the first weeks of recovery at home. A recliner with one of those side pull mechanisms would have been easier to deal with on my own. I was a side sleeper but am still more comfortable on my back or slightly on my side.

    Again, good luck to you, Hetty! I’ll be eager to hear you are doing well.


  • Juli

    I too was concerned about a bra after surgery. I was going into surgery expecting a sternotomy and came out with a mini thoracotomy, submammory (under my breast). Wearing a bra was not an option for at least two months. When I was able to wear one, I got a very flexible, light stretchy one–my husband called it a training bra. I didn’t think I would wear it for very long, but I stayed in it for over eleven months. Now at one year, I am finally in a real non-wire bra! My aunt is so proud that me and my thirteen-year-old daughter have graduated from our training bras.

  • Hetty

    Just over a week until surgery day, am still terrified, but resigned.
    I have already been told i will need a sternotomy, but would be happy
    if a minimal incision approach was possible. That must have been a
    relief Juli. Hope everyone is doing well.


  • Darcy

    I had valve repair last June and after some online research I chose a front close sports bra but I found I could easily wear my usual under-wire bra within a couple of weeks. This past April I had valve replacement surgery and just used a non-wire full support bra from Victorias Secret and it was really comfortable. Good thoughts coming your way for your recovery, you will feel so much better when your ticker is working better.

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