In the recovery room following my tummy tuck operation I awoke finding myself wearing a large white compression garment (support garment) around my midsection. It was wrapped firmly around me. I felt like I was wearing a tight fitting suit of armor. One with blood and everything.
I was instructed to wear my compression garment continuously for the next several days and possibly weeks to aid the healing process following surgery. Compression garments, also known as post surgical garments, compression belts, compression girdles, surgical support garments, pressure garments, compression bandage, stomach compression binders and plastic surgery recovery garments are usually wide “girdle type” garments made from durable, elastic materials and are usually closed with Velcro or zippers. They are used to compress, hold and maintain parts of the human body. Surgical compression garments help the newly shaped and sutured skin mold firmly against the body and helps it heal without sagging. It compresses or squeezes the body’s fluids back towards the deeper body tissues and helps to reducing edema (swelling) in the affected areas. Post surgery garments also improve blood circulation, flushes harmful fluids out of the body, expedites the healing process and allows the patient to recover sooner.
The one that I used was provided for me “free” by my plastic surgeon. I’m told they usually cost about $50 and patients are usually informed to purchase two of them, one for wearing while the other is in the wash. Mine is 9″ wide. I wore it continually at home for the first few months. I felt that wearing it as long as possible would be good for the healing process plus it gave me a sense of security.
Cleaning My Compression Garment
Following my surgery mine became stained with blood seepage from my wound areas. To clean it, I simply soaked the stained areas with hydrogen peroxide for a few minutes. The blood dissolved quickly and disappeared before my eyes. The heavily stained areas needed additional soaking. After tossing it in the washing machine it came out nice and clean and free of stains.
I was told that it would only be “good” for a few weeks and would wear out after a few washings. Surprisingly it turns out that it was good for at least one year after and still going strong. I still wear it occasionally at night and in the evening when I have had too much to eat. I feel that it might help to keep my stomach from stretching out again.
What Does A Surgical Compression Garment Do?
It helps you recover from surgery.
- They provide compression which pushes body fluids away from the skin and reduces swelling. It also helps flush potentially harmful fluids from your body which in turn reduces the risk of infection and bruising.
- They help hold skin firmly against the body which aids in body contouring.
Medical garments are made from light weight breathable material and are designed to be worn comfortably for continual and extended periods of time. They must be properly fitted to provide the appropriate support and function in the right areas.
- What is a Tummy Tuck compression garment?
Tummy tuck garments, also known as post surgical garments or plastic surgery recovery garments are usually wide “girdle type” garments made from durable, elastic materials and are usually closed with Velcro. They are used to compress, hold and maintain parts of the human body. They help the newly shaped and sutured skin mold firmly against the body and helps it heal without sagging. They compress or squeeze the body’s fluids back towards the deeper body tissues and helps to reducing edema (swelling) in the affected areas.
- How long will I have to wear the compression garment?
The length of time to wear one after an abdominoplasty is typically from 1 week to 2 months. I found it comforting to wear for many months while sleeping in bed (I sleep on my side). It gave me a sense that it was holding my midsection in place and not allowing it to sag.
- Can I wash my tummy tuck garment?
The general instructions are to hand wash. Washing criteria varies with each compression garment. I washed mine in the washing machine a few days after surgery and it came out clean and in good shape. I have washed it many times since with no problems.
- What is a first stage compression garment?
A first stage garment is usually worn for the first two weeks after surgery. It usually is of moderate compression and of a larger size than the second stage to accommodate the swelling after the surgery. It is not made to be fashionable.
- What is a second stage compression garment?
The second stage garment is usually worn after most of the swelling has subsided and is a smaller size than the first stage. It is usually a non-zipper pull on garment designed to fit more smoothly and unnoticeable under clothing as patients become more active.
- How many garments should I buy?
It is recommended to buy two first stage garments for immediate use after surgery (so you can wear one while the other is being laundered) and one second stage garment. You can probably get by with one first stage garment if you take it easy and don’t move around a lot while it is being cleaned.
- How tight should I wear it?
Your garment over your midsection should be tight but not painful. One of the purposes for wearing it is body contouring, so it must be tight enough hold everything in place. It also applies pressure on the incision area to avoid separation, minimize scarring, keep it flat and allow it to heal together smoothly and seamlessly. When you move around, walk and reach you should feel that your midsection is held firmly in place and is not “moving around”.
- What happens if I don’t wear my compression garment after my operation?
If you don’t wear your garment after surgery your run the risk of increased scarring, swelling, longer healing time and possible development of seromas.
- Can tummy tuck compression garments help heal seromas?
Formation of seromas may be prevented (or reduced) through use of a tight fitting compression garment. The force from tummy tuck garments helps collapse the cavity formed by the seroma and prevents further accumulation of fluid. Tummy tuck garments may have to be worn for several weeks or months.
- What should I wear beneath my compression garment?
You have to wear a bandage or dressing beneath it to cover the incision area, absorb blood and drainage and keep the wound clean. The bandage will in turn keep the garment clean. The bandage should be changed daily or more frequently if needed. I found that Walgreens Super Size Underpads make good bandages. They are absorbent on one side and plastic coated on the other. The can be cut to fit.
- Can it be worn over a surgical drain?
Yes, over the tubes, but not the containers (bulbs). As a matter of fact it’s a good idea to place the garment over the drain tubes and the penetration area where they enter your body to hold them in place and prevent them from coming out.
- Do you have to sleep in compression garment?
Yes. Sleeping is an important time to wear the garment because you may twist and turn in your sleep causing damage to your incision area without knowing it. During the day at least you have knowledge of your actions.
- Do compression garments help stop aging?
Help stop aging? I have never heard that one before but I would have to guess the answer is no.
- Do you take off compression garments after surgery to receive a MLD treatment?
As I understand it, Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD) is a gentle type of massage used to drain excess fluid from the body. I would check with my surgeon before proceeding.
- Is it safe to wear compression garment after tummy tuck for longer than 6 weeks?
I can’t think of a reason why if wouldn’t be safe to wear a one for longer than 6 weeks. As a matter of fact, the longer the better. I probably wore mine constantly for the first 3 months, then intermittently thereafter. I still wear it occasionally to bed at night after I eat a big meal.
- My compression garment is hurting me. What can I do?
Find out why it is hurting you. If it is digging into your skin it may be too tight and you may have loosen it or get a different size. What is hurting? Is it your stitches, incision area, the skin surrounding your incision, your insides or what? Your garment should not hurt. In fact it should feel good and comforting. Maybe a wider garment will distribute the pressure more evenly and be more comfortable. Check with your doctor if the hurt does not go away.
- Where to buy surgery compression garments?
If you are like me your will wake up in the recovery room with a surgical compression garment already on you and you won’t have to buy one. Check with your surgeon to see if you have to supply your own. If you do or want to have a second garment (as many people do) you might try your local medical supply store or shop online at Amazon.com.
- Should I wear a bandages under my compression garment?
Yes, while your wound is healing you should always wear a bandage under your compression garment. The bandage will absorb drainage and keep your wound clean and protected. If your apply topical creams or gels to your wound the bandage will cover them as well and keep it clean. The bandage also will prevent any pinching from the garment on bare skin.
- Is it safe to remove it for a short time?
It should be OK to remove it for a an hour or two as long as you don’t move around too much.
- Can I buy and wear a compression garment from a local store?
Non medical compression garments may be cheaper than medical compression garments but they are not designed for the same purposes. If you use non medical garments you run the risk of increasing your recovery time, swelling and discomfort instead of increasing them.
- What is the difference between medical and non-medical compression garments?
Designed to provide maximum compression in key surgical areas and general support in other areas; no seams at key surgical areas; labels are placed on the outside of the garments; latex-free, strong, breathable and lightweight fabric; fast drying; designed to maintain elasticity over long periods of time; highest quality material and components used.
- Non Medical
Not designed for cosmetic surgery recovery: not designed for continual wearing; not designed to provide proper compression in the right areas. May provide too little or too much compression; not designed specifically to meet the needs of tummy tuck patients; lose elasticity over time.
Here are some excerpts from our Tummy Tuck Forum:
“Sure you can wear clothes. That shouldn’t be a problem. Just make sure they are not tight and binding in the mid-section area. You should have plenty of your old or transitional clothing that will fit. Again, just plan ahead. Remember you will be wearing it continuously.”
“I am still wearing it, actually. I have to wear it until 6 weeks post-op. In fact, I will have to ring them to ask if I have to wear it a while longer due to the rupture of the scar and stuff. But, the hospital gave me two of them. (it’s the white thing with the blood on it that I’m lying on on the ‘morning after picture) I alternate the garments once every two days, so I can wash them. The garment goes from just under the horizontal scar (about an inch and a half under) to my ribs. It is quite snug, yes, but not uncomfortably so.”
“The wound healed up nicely again, and things started to go a lot better. However, I was still real tired all of the time. So, last week (4 weeks post-op) I woke up in a puddle of blood. The horizontal scar just below the belly button had apparently ripped during sleep. I was soaked in blood, as was my garment, the shirt I slept in and the pillow I had held against my belly during sleep. So back to the surgeon I went.”
“How did the scars open up? Turning in your sleep? Would that have happened if the compression garment was bigger or tighter? I hope you had a plastic underlay on your bed (though probably not after 4 weeks have passed).”
“My excess skin and weight that I lost was mostly above the waist line (and I always wore pants fairly low). Most of the swelling from surgery was above the waist so it was not a problem as far as wearing pants was concerned. I did have to wear the bandages and the compression garment under the pants which added some girth but not too much.”
“It may also depend on the type of bike that you ride, how far and fast you go and how strenuous it is. If you do ride your bike I would suggest that you invest in additional compression garments to wear while you are cycling. I would bind myself up pretty tight to make it impossible to pull at stitches or the surgical wound area. The last thing you want to do is injure yourself and cause complications to your recovery. If you have a bike that forces you into leaning forward or in awkward positions you may want to borrow or rent a different bike that will be more compatible with a tummy tuck operation.”