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

Posted by Adam Pick on August 13th, 2008

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 A dad, a husband and a patient, Adam Pick founded this website in 2006 to educate you about heart valve surgery from diagnosis to recovery.
You can get the latest updates about heart valve surgery from Adam at his Facebook, and Twitter pages. Click here to email him. says on August 13th, 2008 at 2:36 pm

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 says on August 13th, 2008 at 2:54 pm

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 says on August 13th, 2008 at 3:11 pm

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 says on August 13th, 2008 at 3:19 pm

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 says on August 13th, 2008 at 3:24 pm

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 says on August 13th, 2008 at 3:37 pm

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.


Adam Pick says on August 13th, 2008 at 3:48 pm

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 says on August 13th, 2008 at 4:38 pm

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 says on August 13th, 2008 at 5:20 pm

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!


Heather Abbott says on August 13th, 2008 at 7:06 pm


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 says on August 13th, 2008 at 8:15 pm

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 says on August 13th, 2008 at 9:45 pm

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 says on August 14th, 2008 at 1:55 pm

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 says on August 14th, 2008 at 4:49 pm

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 says on August 14th, 2008 at 11:00 pm

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 says on August 14th, 2008 at 11:42 pm

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 says on August 15th, 2008 at 6:12 am

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 says on August 16th, 2008 at 12:23 am

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 says on August 19th, 2008 at 6:56 pm

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 says on August 26th, 2008 at 10:48 am

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 says on August 27th, 2008 at 7:25 pm

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. says on September 5th, 2008 at 8:12 pm

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 says on September 5th, 2008 at 10:10 pm

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 says on September 17th, 2008 at 6:22 pm

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 says on September 17th, 2008 at 6:44 pm

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 says on September 18th, 2008 at 4:32 pm

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 says on September 18th, 2008 at 9:28 pm

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 says on December 27th, 2008 at 6:36 pm

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 says on August 7th, 2009 at 7:15 pm


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?


Madeleine Markham says on August 10th, 2009 at 1:29 pm

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 says on October 1st, 2009 at 11:48 am

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 says on December 16th, 2010 at 11:19 pm

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 says on January 12th, 2011 at 5:39 pm

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 says on January 17th, 2011 at 5:14 pm

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 says on June 6th, 2011 at 9:07 pm

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 says on June 7th, 2011 at 8:17 am

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 says on July 1st, 2011 at 9:26 pm

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 says on August 10th, 2011 at 10:42 am

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 says on September 6th, 2011 at 7:29 am

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 says on October 14th, 2011 at 12:18 pm

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 says on November 13th, 2011 at 3:05 pm

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 says on June 3rd, 2012 at 11:41 am

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 says on June 30th, 2012 at 7:05 am

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 says on June 30th, 2012 at 11:41 am

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 says on July 3rd, 2012 at 1:42 am

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 says on July 7th, 2012 at 5:43 pm

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 says on July 8th, 2012 at 7:30 am

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 says on July 8th, 2012 at 9:43 pm

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 says on July 13th, 2012 at 5:19 am

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 says on July 18th, 2012 at 7:03 pm

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.


Laura Arwood says on July 18th, 2012 at 11:53 pm

Sending good thoughts your way, Hetty. People here will tell you they did just fine and I look forward to hearing that you did too!



Hetty says on July 19th, 2012 at 3:05 am

Thanks Darcy,

Surgery is this Tuesday, so getting very close,
i have never been so scared in my life and am
not sure how i am going to make myself go through
those hospital doors, but don’t really have a choice.
Thanks for the positive thoughts everyone,



Lena says on July 27th, 2012 at 3:38 pm

I had my mitral valve replacement and tricuspid repaired on the 21 June 2012 at Milpark Hospital in South Africa. My surgery was six months after I gave birth and I stopped breastfeeding two weeks before surgery. I was concerned about the size of my breast but did not have time to research on how to deal with breast after surgery.

After the surgery I woke up with my breast supported by a special plaster or tape which I am told was put in theater. It lasted for three days until I was moved from ICU to high care. It was comfortable. After i took it out, I used a soft (breastfeeding) bra on the fourth day. I have learnt that if you have a medium to big breast, you really a bra to support your back and more importantly to ensure that incision is not strained by heavy breasts. It’s five weeks today and always careful with bras I use. I bought a surgical bra whilst in hospital but it not assist and only used it once. Search on the Internet and you will be lucky, some of us learnt late.


Hetty says on August 5th, 2012 at 6:10 am

Well, here i am home after my open heart surgery, and it was about as horrid as i thought it would be. Starting to feel a bit better everyday now, but baby steps.
Surgery went well according to the surgeon, and hopefully i won’t have anymore
issues, once i get over the surgery. Can’t believe how tired i get, this really has
knocked the stuffing out of me. And am so glad it is behind me, now i can just
concentrate on getting my strength back.



Laura Arwood says on August 5th, 2012 at 2:41 pm

Hang in there Hetty! Great to hear from you. Sending healing thoughts your way.



Hetty says on August 18th, 2012 at 8:44 pm

Hi All,

Thought i would put up an update,
it is 3 and a half weeks since my
surgery now, and slowly, slowly, i
am improving. I ended up with a
couple of soft, front opening bra’s
which are quite comfortable, if not
that supportive. I tried my usual bra,
but can’t manage that just yet.
My incision is healing well, i am
a bit stiff and sore, but that is not
surprising considering what they
do to you during the surgery.
Different areas are uncomfortable
each day, but i am noticing that
i am able to do a little more each day.
Thanks everyone for the positive



cmfic says on September 16th, 2012 at 5:28 pm

Hi- I had to write..I had cabgX4 on 8/5/12. 3 days after surgery, they removed a bra of some sort from me- I never did get to see what it looked like. I am large breasted, and
at 55, nothing is perky anymore, and I just thought that I simply couldn’t wear a bra because of my incision. My doctors and even the hospital staff never told me if I could or should wear a bra after surgery. 1 week after being home, I went to see my general MD who saw hat my incision was opening on the bottom end, and prescribed antibiotics- but again, no one ever mentioned a bra. Now, 6 weeks out, I am still packing my incision with gauze and saline 3-4 times a day, and it has closed down to 1/3rd of the original size. My breasts hurt often from nerve pain, and I am wondering if managing to somehow wear a bra would help reduce this pain? The incision is open right smack where a bra would close in front, and I don’t know if I could handle having anything pressing there. Any suggestions would be appreciated.


Laura Arwood says on October 16th, 2012 at 12:35 pm

I’m 51, big breasted as well (50 G) and also had my scar open at the bottom within a few weeks of surgery. Doc even threated to put me back in the hospital on a wound vac if improvement wasn’t seen!

During that time, I didn’t wear a bra. I bought large 100% cotton t-shirts, as soft as could be found. Then cut them down the front right in the middle. Each side was then knotted to form a sort of separate pouch which I plopped each of my ‘girls’ in. This arrangement gave me some support yet kept them separated, thus preventing the wound from getting moist (moisture weakens the scar tissue and can cause splits).

After a couple of weeks of that, I was able to graduate into soft, front close bras.

However, that post surgery re-opening, took 9 weeks to heal and I had to stay as immobile as possible. Reclining was best. (Sustained movement would push the breasts together.) Even sitting I couldn’t do tasks that required my hands to be close to one another (like knitting which I love) because that would push the breasts together.

Hope some of this is helpful and I’m sending you healing thoughts! At 6 months out from an open heart aortic valve replacement, I’m doing great.



CMFIC says on October 16th, 2012 at 3:40 pm

I just passed the 10 week mark since my cabgx4 surgery, and the open incision below my breasts has just closed 2 days ago. I am still extremely sore across my mid chest from the incision, and am looking for a comfortable bra to wear- I realize I hurt less if I hold the girls up a little LOL. Am still disappointed that neither my Cardio nor thoracic surgeon ever brought up a bra and any options either. They MAKE and sell SURGICAL cardiac bra’s for after surgery! They are sold via prescription only! I would have benefited greatly from one, and I’m suspecting that you too Laura- would have benefited from one! I have learned that I am never going to listen to anyone tell me to go right ahead and shower with a FRESH incision UNCOVERED days after surgery! I will give it a couple of weeks! I still say Gals, talk to your DR’s about a surgical bra being ordered if you have a lot of chest to support!


Laura Arwood says on October 16th, 2012 at 9:19 pm

I too was incredulous that none of the cardiac staff (doctors, nurses, etc) knew squat about bras. Maybe because men have historically had more open heart procedures? Do you happen to know what sizes those surgical bras come in? Or have a website? I looked a few online but none were large enough.


CMFIC says on October 17th, 2012 at 6:19 pm

Laura: Here’s where ANYONE here can find out about the heart hugger surgical bras- and they show sizes going up to 5x in the 50′s ! I hope this will help ANY WOMAN going into surgery! Website: If anyone gets one of these, please POST about your experience with it. I just got myself back into a bra TODAY after going over 10 weeks without one, and the support felt wonderful, and my self esteem was as boosted as my girls were! I wish i had been able to wear one fro surgery on out. I know now that it would have made recovery far less painful! Cyn


kathy mabe says on November 15th, 2012 at 9:43 pm

I have a tumor in my heart and am going to have open heart surgery around Dec. first. I am also a full figure woman with either D or DD cup sizes. What type of bra would you suggest that I get before the operation?


Joan says on January 13th, 2013 at 3:27 pm

I had a quad bypass two weeks ago. My newest best friend is my Genie Bra which I purchased for $10 at Walmart. I have worn it 24/7 except for one night when I thought it might be a good thing to remove it overnight and get some air on my incision. Wrong, wrong! My pain level increased several day’s worth so I will definitely wear this all thi time until it is comfortable to change to my pre-op bras. I am a DDD so this support is crucial for me. The difference between this Genie Bra and a regular sports bra is that the Genie comes in several sizes which makes a more proper fitting possible.


Debra H. says on June 18th, 2013 at 11:07 am

Hi everyone, I have just made the decision to have my Aortic Aneurysm and leaking valve repaired, but trying to get all my ducks in a row really sucks, and my being afraid is really not helping, I will be 76 in July but feel 50, I have no pain or anything, guess thats why they call heart problems the silent killer, but I have faith that all will come out great, I have a list of questions for my Dr. and thanks to you all about the Bra I added it to the list. Would like feed back on what other questions you all may think will make me feel better and understand this surgery…I know every hair on our head is numbered and when God wants me he will take me if I don’t or do have this surgery..just praying its much later than sooner thanks everyone and God Bless you that have done it and are doing so good….Debra


CMFIC says on June 19th, 2013 at 11:13 am

Hi Debra!
Good luck with your upcoming surgery! i pray it goes smoothly for you! Some of the problems I had after surgery while IN the hospital you might like to address before you go in. I am diabetic. While in the hospital, my Dr. had me on a low cholesterol, low fat diet. That means that 99% of everything they brought me was CARBS! Carbs=SUGAR. Then, they kept checking my blood sugars and running in to inject insulin! I argued with the nurses and dietitian.

One morning when my breakfast was:
2 pancakes with low-fat syrup (Which has MORE sugar than reg syrup), Margarine (Pure trans fat), Pears in syrup, Orange juice, cranberry juice, and coffee ( I begged for unsweetened iced tea daily, never got it) and a cup of oatmeal (grains=sugar) AND, one single solitary sausage link. I pointed out that everything on the tray was sugar, with the exception of the instant black coffee and the one sausage link! And she still argued with me that it was a healthy breakfast after open heart surgery! She asked me what I was gong to eat that was healthy on the tray, I picked up the sausage and said “THIS” is my breakfast. Other meals were no better. After I exited the hospital and saw my cardio for the 1st time again, I asked him if he knew what the low cholesterol diet consisted of. And he really was totally clueless! Once I pointed it all out to him, he was shocked!

So I suggest you talk frankly with your surgeon /and cardio about WHAT you will be on as far as diet unless you enjoy eating pure sugar!

In ICU After surgery, you cannot talk right away as you will have the tube down your throat. You are dealing with a bit of choking from the phlegm you body makes and may need to spell out suction to the nurses. Most have an ABC paper to show patients to communicate with them as they realize you cannot talk with the tube in place. To get their attention and to get them to bring the paper to you- use a finger to make letters in the air, and they should get the hint. Sounds crazy, but it beats choking and struggling to breathe.

After I got home, a few weeks later, I discovered the front close bra they actually put on me while in surgery. I had thought they wrapped my chest in ace wrap or something, because I never saw it in the hospital. When the nurse took it off me for that 1st shower, she stashed it in my “go home” bag. She should have shown it to me after the shower, and asked me if I wanted it back on or assisted me in putting it back on ! That would have helped me immensely. And, do NOT allow them to put you in the shower and leave you there alone. An aid stripped me of my gown, turned on scalding hot water, and left the room. When I was done with my shower, I hit the nurse call, as I needed towels- she had left me with NONE. I was now starting to shiver and get very cold, as this was August and the AC was on! I ended up with 3 emergency nurse calls pulled, and stood freezing naked with my old hospital gown laying dirty on the floor at my feet. I ended up almost falling as I bent down to get that and put that on in an attempt to get dry and warm. 15-20 minutes had passed and the aid came back in, and I told her where is everyone? I am frozen, you didn’t bring me any towels! She left the room, and I ended up struggling alone to get out of the bathroom with the wet gown on that I was forced to use as a towel, and they had put my walker ( I have a knee that needs replacement soon) across the room, and I struggled to get to it, and then walk my shaking, frozen body back across the room to a chair where I sat in freezing with a blanket I managed to pull off my bed- wrapped over the front of me. When the actual nurse came in, I was so angry and hurt I was bawling. I had just been through major surgery and this is the care I was getting in the hospital? The very people I trusted to take CARE of me? I was supposed to remain in the hospital 3 more days, when my surgeon came 2 hours later, I told him I wanted to go home because I could get better care there than I was getting IN the hospital.He KNEW I was upset, a nurse had informed him that I wanted to leave. He didn’t ask WHY, he just said ‘Ok. You can go” I went home at 4 that afternoon. Make SURE you have family or friends who can advocate for you in the hospital!

Lastly, Have people taking CARE of you when you go home too. Have them there around the clock the 1st couple weeks or until you feel strong enough to be alone.
The peace of mind alone is worth it. I was left on my own after only about a week, and I strongly feel I would have recovered better had I had help & wasn’t alone. The worst part of the pain after surgery, was the nerve pain across my chest. Don’t hesitate to take the pain meds they prescribe BEFORE the pain gets going. It’s hard to control once it does. And ASK for anything you need! you may feel 50 but you will want all the TLC to recover to continue to feel that way! I hope this helps make it easier for you! Cyn


CMFIC says on June 19th, 2013 at 11:20 am

BTW Debra, I’ll be 56 in Sept, and now 10 months post surgery- I have more energy than I had the 5 years prior to surgery! My incision still is tender at times, but I’ve learned that its just a reminder that I’m blessed to still be here and enjoying all life has to offer! Life after open heart DOES get better!


Debra H. says on June 20th, 2013 at 8:59 pm

Hay CMFIC sooo sorry to hear about your hospital stay, where in the world was it?? man I would have had the head of that place in my room asap!!!!going thru that surgery is bad enough but to put up with the crap you did really sucks….Thank you for all the information I added alot to the questions for my Dr., I am still shakey about thinking of the surgery, but I am sure like you I will feel wonderful (after all is healed)


Jan M. says on June 22nd, 2013 at 9:52 am

Hello all,
Thank you all for your helpful suggestions. I am facing aortic valve replacement soon and am very concerned if not terrified! I have Coronary Angiography test scheduled for July 17 and then they will schedule replacement surgery after that. I found this blog after researching what type of bra to wear post surgery. I am 74 but have much more I want to get done. The intubation process frightens me to pieces. I guess it’s the thought of choking. Also very worrisome is the recovery time required as I have dogs that require care. I know I will have to depend on help from family and friends to get through this. Anytime I dwell on what’s coming up my mind goes blank and I can’t bear to think ahead. But your comments on how well you’ve gotten through this have helped me immensely. Keep them coming and thank you all so much!
Jan M.


Lamariposa says on July 30th, 2013 at 10:31 pm

Just had OHS on July 12th. I had an array of breast support garments I had bought ahead of time but a bikini top ended up being the most comfortable. I’m a size 14/16 and am a D cup so I’m not small by any means. The sports bra felt too tight and was hard to get into. The bikini top was easy as I could just put it over my head with the neck already tied and have someone tie the back


Donna Jensen says on November 15th, 2013 at 3:45 pm

Hi, I’m Donna, my heart surgery was three years ago in October and I still can’t wear a bra, I can’t stand the pressure across my chest. I wear a tight undergarment with a strip of tee shirt material sown under the breasts to keep the sweat from galling me and a bra pad between me and the undergarment. Seems to be the best I can do I am a 36D but I had staff infection in my incision so they cut out three inches between my breasts and pulled them together so with the pads in place you can’t tell I’m not wearing a bra. So far best I’ve found. No one else has come up with anything better. Would love to hear suggestions. Thanks Donna PS I’ve also had a shoulder replacement in the last year.


clare says on January 3rd, 2014 at 7:14 pm

I am 45 years old and my aortic valve replacement and aneurysm repair is next Wed. I have been stressing over everything. Thanks for all the good tips ladies. I am a 40d so I will be needing some support. I have only known about this problem for a week so I am still in shock.


pat burton says on April 3rd, 2014 at 5:39 pm

I had a stint put in sept 19. 3 artery bypass and a hole in my heart fixed October 30 2013. I am big chested and had a little trouble. I wore the surgery bra till Dec 5th. I started having ulcers on my breast. They became pussy open sores. I am a clean person and went to several drs. About this condition including a cancer Dr. A deteratologist did 2biopsys to find out I now have a very disease called an diffuse dermal angiomatosis. My Dr explained because it is so rare there are no studies and therefore don’t know much about this. In 2011 there were 4people with this. Since then only 1more has been reported so I am the 6th person. This is very painful and am asking everyone for prayers. He is treating me with isotretinoin. I have a hard time wearing tops. So I try not so I don’t go out a lot. I developed ulcers on my breasts. I have various medsso please say prayers. Thank you


georgia taylor says on June 30th, 2014 at 10:47 am

I had aoritic valve replacement 11/29/2012. Easy surgery and recovery. However, I developed some nasty Keloids along my incision making wearing a bra VERY uncomfortable. All specialty bras are for women having mascetomies. Nothing really available for us. I actually cut the cups from a Victoria Secret bra and sewed them into a tank top.. That gave me some support and comfort. Finally the keloids are beginning to heal and I have found some stretch bras at the Walmart for 5.98 that work wonderfully well as the bottom is only stretch lace. So now I have comfort and feel much better about going out in public. None of the creams my Dr. prescribed helped the keloids. My pharmacists suggested cocoa butter and that is helping…..slowly. And I am back to swimming and the exercise is wonderful.


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