Funding for post-surgery bras for patients at Bristol Heart Institute

Women undergoing heart surgery at Bristol Heart Institute are being given specially designed support bras to help reduce wound infection, aid recovery and improve comfort.

Following heart surgery, women are advised to wear a supportive, non-wired bra – day and night – for six weeks. It's a key part of the recovery process. Traditional post-surgery bras are only available in limited sizes and with additional fluid weight gain after surgery, many women wear an ill-fitting bra, or no bra at all. In these cases, the weight and movement of breasts can pull at surgical wounds and lead to infection, discomfort and pain.

Preparing for heart surgery

Patients are given information about post-surgery bras and encouraged to buy one before they come to hospital for surgery. However, it can be hard to find a suitable bra, particularly for larger women, older patients, those who live remotely and those with limited internet access.

Lisa, a recent heart surgery patient from Weston-super-Mare, said:

“I didn’t even think I’d need a bra and shopping for one is the last thing on your mind when you’re getting ready for surgery. Measuring yourself is difficult so I had to get my husband to measure me – which isn’t really what you want to do. And then it’s the added stress of remembering to order one, dealing with delivery dates, and also the cost.”

Bringing BHIS bras to Bristol Heart Institute

Now, thanks to Bristol & Weston Hospitals Charity supporters, patients are given one specialist bra which is fitted immediately after surgery.

“When I got here for my surgery and Jess [Webster, consultant cardiac anaesthetist] told me I was going to be given one of the new specialist bras, I was so pleased” said Lisa. “Now I have three to help me through my recovery.”

With a stock of bras now in place, the BHI team can measure patients when they come in for their pre-op assessment. The two week gap between assessment and surgery ensures that the correctly sized bra will be ready for the patient on the day of their operation. Over the last three months, 30 patients have benefited from the new bras.

Jess Webster, consultant cardiac anaesthetist, has spearheaded the trial at Bristol Heart Institute alongside trainee anaesthetist Fiona Oglesby. The process is gradually becoming embedded across all the teams involved with a patient from pre-op assessment to post-surgery physiotherapy.

Jess said:

“Mobility is crucial for recovery and an unexpected outcome of the feedback we’ve received is that wearing a well-fitting and supportive bra means patients are much more likely to get out of bed. Beyond preventing wound infections, the bras provide comfort, dignity and restore a sense of confidence at a time when female patients are feeling very vulnerable.

“The response to this trial also speaks to the importance of a forward-thinking workplace that accommodates female perspectives. The more female clinicians we have in surgical and medical settings, the more we'll be able to improve the treatment and care for female patients in our hospitals.”

You can continue to make a difference to patients like Lisa at Bristol and Weston hospitals by donating or giving a regular gift. Thank you.