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Dr. Kathryn King models the bra she designed to help women recover from heart surgery.
the Gauntlet

Bra helps heart surgery patients recover

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A specialized compression bra developed by a team of University of Calgary researchers will help women recover from heart surgery.

Wearing the supportive undergarment immediately after heart surgery significantly reduces women's breast pain, according to a national clinical trial led by Dr. Kathryn King, a U of C professor and heritage population health investigator.

"Women who wore the bra after surgery had a great deal less pain and discomfort in their breasts--such as numbness, tingling or shooting sensations--than those in the control group," said Dr. King.

Although similar supportive bras have been used in the past by post-operative patients, this research is the first to provide substantial scientific data of their benefits.

Christine Smith, a participant in the study who underwent heart surgery last year, found the bra very valuable, and said she hopes other women will take advantage of the product if and when it is released.

"It was wonderful," said Smith. "It gives you that feeling of security when you've just had your sternum separated. You worry about that, but with the bra you feel a lot safer."

The compression bra is different from conventional bras in that it provides extra compression, fastens in the front, doesn't have any metal parts that can interfere with x-rays and can be adjusted to accommodate any changes in breast size that might occur after surgery.

"On the whole, the women loved it," said Dr. King. "It's easy to put on, and it also helps protect their modesty."

The research conducted by Dr. King and her team is entitled The Women's Recovery from Sternotomy Trial and will be published in the American Heart Journal.

Since the retail cost of one bra is estimated at about $75, the next step will be to look at the economic feasibility of the bras, which are not currently covered by medical insurance.

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