Does Everyone Need Surgical Bras and Compression Garments?

I am scheduled for tummy tuck and breast reduction on 12/30/11. My PS didn't mention needing to purchase compression garments or surgical bras, but I have read about them here on RealSelf. Are these items that I need to purchase prior to surgery?

Doctor Answers 12

You will get to the same result without them, maybe a little longer

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There is nothing magical about wearing a surgical bra after any breast surgery.  I tell my patients it should make them feel more comfortable and with less painful bouncing around.  If it isn't accomplishing that then find another one until it works.  But the eventual shape of your breast will not depend on wearing a certain bra immediately after surgery

So things are a little different with the compression garment if you are having liposuction as well. These compress the tissue so that swelling is limited and recovery is faster as a result.  Again there is nothing about this garment that will make you look better than if you don't wear it.  But you might be a whole lot more comfortable in one that going without one.

Finally you should call your doctor's office and discuss it with them.  Maybe they forgot to tell you about it or maybe they provide one of theirs afterwards...

You (probably) don't need to purchase your own surgical bra and compression garment!

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After breast augmentation, I don't use a surgical bra, though many surgeons do, presumably to reduce bruising and/or bleeding. After breast reduction (the operation you are having), I and most of my colleagues do use a surgical bra or elastic wrap (Ace bandage, for example) for the same reason--to reduce bruising and/or bleeding. With breast reduction, the incisions are more extensive, and the flap creation and skin tailoring much more involved, so there is always some degree of bleeding and bruising that can be minimized by careful surgery and then subsequent use of gentle compression.

It's all a question of degree, IMHO. I never use a drain in breast augmentation, and don't use compression wraps or brassieres because I believe very careful surgery and precise hemostasis minimizes capsular contracture around an implant I want to move and remain soft and mobile. I use the same careful techniques and precise control of bleeding vessels with breast reduction, but with this surgery there is no implant and we actually do want the tissues to adhere and heal, so no matter how careful and precise I am, gentle compression makes sense to help the healing process. I haven't used a drain with breast reductions for a couple of decades, and I don't want to imply that surgeons who use drains are doing something "wrong." But you can see that how a surgeon treats the tissues and controls bleeding is part of a spectrum that varies with surgeon, patient, and need/benefit for drain, compression, or none.

The same thinking applies to all areas of the body that plastic surgeons operate on. Generally, the more extensive the surgical dissection, or the vascularity of the operated area, or the activity/motion of the surgical site, the higher likelihood of a drain being used (sometimes just for "safety net" purposes, or to reduce visible bruising), or compression bandages or garments tailored to the surgical site being recommended. Wherever implants are involved, however, if drains are used to remove blood or fluid, those drains can also act as a "superhighway" for bacteria to enter the drain tract, and can contaminate or infect the implant. With breast implants this increases the risks of capsular contracture. For tissue-only areas, such as a tummy tuck, removal of the blood and serum is beneficial to the healing process and getting the tissue layers to adhere and heal together, so drains AND gentle compression help rather than hinder the process. (And there is no implant to worry about contaminating!)

Most of us who utilize any sort of compression or garment, whether it be for the face, breasts, abdomen, or thighs (as for liposuction), will want to choose the exact type of garment/device and the degree of compression. We stock and supply them to our patients so they get and have the "right kind" as well as the "right size." Because of this, some garments are expensive and tailored to the patient's height, weight, and post-surgical shape and size, so we include this (and show the patient the cost) in our surgical fees. This way we know our patients are getting the exact amount and kind of compression we recommend for the area(s) operated upon.

And all plastic surgeons, regardless of technique or preference or habit or training, want our patients to have a good result! Ask your surgeon about this (or his/her nursing staff) and they will gladly answer the specific recommendations they have for your particular operation. But don't do this yourself! Best wishes on your upcoming surgery!

Richard H. Tholen, MD, FACS
Minneapolis Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 263 reviews

Bra post op

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Every doctor has different post op instructions so you should ask your surgeon what would work for you.
The dressings vary from patient to patient. Some patients may be placed in a sports bra; others will wear a stabilizing elastic support strap. Your doctor will decide after surgery and in subsequent weeks, which dressing will suit your needs and how long you would need to wear them.

Garments after surgery

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You will likely be placed in some type of garments after surgery. We provide those for our patient at my office but don't assume that these will be given to you. Call your plastic surgeon's office and ask if you need to get something or will it be provided for you.

Good luck Friday.

J. Jason Wendel, MD, FACS
Nashville Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 221 reviews

Compression Garment After Tummy Tuck

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Most hospitals and surgery centers send their patients home with an abdominal binder and surgical bra after a tummy tuck and breast reduction. Call your doctor's office to check if you need to buy it.

Karol A. Gutowski, MD, FACS
Chicago Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 76 reviews

Post-op Garments For Tummy Tuck & Reduction

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I tend to use inexpensive devices following both tummy tucks and reductions.  With a tummy tuck, I use an abdominal binder for which there is no additional charge and I use an inexpensive bra (<$10 for a second and no charge for the first) after augmentation.  Other surgeons may use other and more costly devices, but I see no advantage with their use.

John Whitt, MD (retired)
Louisville Plastic Surgeon

Compression garments

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Compression garments are put in place while you are still on the operating table. I purchase these on my patients' behalf and do not charge separately for them. You should speak with your plastic surgeon about this question but typically, patients do not buy the compression bras and girdles. Several weeks after surgery, when your surgeon permits you to switch to milder compression, you will be able to purchase Spanx or another compressive panty for these purposes. Good luck to you. Dr. K

Bras and garments are part of the package

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It seems unfair to send patients out to find a bra to wear after surgery, and we provide the bre or garment needed to get patients through the period after surgery. You could ask if you are expected to find something on your own, but we would hope not.

Best of luck,

Peter E. Johnson, MD
Chicago Plastic Surgeon
4.0 out of 5 stars 44 reviews

Special garments after surgery

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Not every surgeon uses special bras and garments after surgery, but most of us do.  In our office, they are usually included in the cost of surgery.  I would check with your surgeon to make sure you don't need to purchase them ahead of time.  Good luck with your surgery.

Michael S. Hopkins, MD (retired)
Albuquerque Plastic Surgeon

Garments after Surgery?

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Thank you for the question

It is likely that your plastic surgeon didn't mention these garments because he/she plans to “apply” them while you are in the operating room;  It may behoove you to double check with his/her office.

Best wishes with your upcoming surgery.

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.