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 HeartValveSurgery.com.

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.

  • Laura Arwood

    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!

    Sincerely,
    Laura

  • Hetty

    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,

    Hetty

  • Lena

    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

    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.

    Hetty

  • Laura Arwood

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

    Laura

  • Hetty

    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
    thoughts.

    Hetty

  • cmfic

    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

    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.

    Laura

  • CMFIC

    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

    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

    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!
    info@hearthugger.com Website: http://www.hearthugger.com 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

    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

    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.

    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

    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

    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.

    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.

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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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