Compression garments are the types of clothes that fit tightly around your skin. You might have heard that some patients use them after their surgery because they help with the healing process. There are many different kinds of compression garments, so it may get confusing: abdominal or stomach binder, waist trainer after gastric sleeve, compression socks… Which of these do you actually need to heal after the surgery? Here’s all you should know about compression garments after gastric sleeve!
Should you wear compression garments after the surgery?
Yes and no. This answer depends on the type of compression garments. Most of them aren’t safe to use after your gastric sleeve surgery. The majority of doctors, though, recommend wearing compression socks or stockings after and even before this surgical procedure.
Compression socks are specialized socks that apply gentle pressure to your legs and ankles. If there aren’t any medical restrictions and if you don’t feel extremely uncomfortable, it would be best to try wearing them after and even before your surgery. The doctor will measure your legs and prescribe the ones that are right for you.
What are the benefits of wearing compression socks?
Compression garments after gastric sleeve (socks/stockings) are known to be beneficial for recovery. First of all, they improve blood flow thanks to their therapeutic tightness along your leg. Blood circulates through your body to deposit oxygen where it is needed. This way it refreshes your muscles, which need oxygen to create energy.
Compression socks can, therefore, lower your risk of blood clots and other circulation problems resulting from it, like Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) or Pulmonary Embolism (PE). Both of these are the most common risks related to swelling and poor blood circulation that might be prevented with compression socks. (1)
Consequently, better blood circulation lessens pain in your legs and decreases swelling. Thus, while moving you feel more comfortable.
How to properly wear compression socks after gastric sleeve
It’s best if you consult your surgeon to learn how to properly wear your compression socks during your recovery period. When you first try your socks on, you may find it difficult to place them properly. Smooth out your compression socks after the gastric sleeve so that they lie flat on your legs. Make sure they aren’t too long. Don’t fold them or roll the tops down because it might make them too tight. You can wear your normal socks and shoes over them.
When should you start wearing them?
In order to prevent blood clots, we advise you to start wearing your compression socks even before your gastric sleeve surgery – one week should be enough. This reduces the risk of clotting while you aren’t as active as usual, especially for the ones who suffer from varicosis. Varicosis patients have a higher possibility to face blood clotting.
When you are in a low or moderate-risk group for developing blood clotting, you don’t have to wear compression socks before your procedure if you don’t want to. Your doctor will prescribe anti-clotting medicine for you. You will then start wearing your compression socks right after the surgery during your hospital stay, as instructed by your doctor. (1)
How long should you wear them?
Consult with your surgeon on their recommendations, but generally speaking, wearing compression socks consistently for 10 days after your gastric sleeve surgery is enough.
Here is a small tip for you: The best time of the day to wear compression socks is in the morning, around 30 minutes after you wake up. At that time of the day, your legs are the least swollen. It is expected you to wear them on and off during the whole day. Though, you may have exceptional conditions. Make sure you counsel your doctor about these details.
Should you wear them while sleeping?
It’s useful to wear your compression socks when you’re up and moving. While you are lying down, you take away the gravity effect, so there’s no need to wear your socks when sleeping. Take them off before going to bed, use some lotion, and let your skin breathe freely.
It’s not necessarily harmful to wear compression socks when you’re asleep, especially for short periods of time. Before deciding on that you should always consult with your doctor first.
How tight should they be?
You need to get the right size of your compression socks. They should be snug, but not too tight. First of all, compression socks aren’t supposed to cause you any pain, blanch your skin, or make it reddish. It’s a good idea if you check your skin color before you start wearing your socks for comparison. If stretch fibers leave vertical marks on your skin, it means you’re wearing your compression socks too tight.
What about waist trainers, abdominal girdles, and other shapewear?
Some surgeons might suggest wearing abdominal garments after gastric sleeve, but some don’t. These kinds of compression garments are recommended after aesthetic types of surgeries.
Let’s talk about both of these ideas.
Why these garments are not recommended?
Some doctors suggest these garments by asserting that they reduce pain, speed up recovery, and prevent blood clotting. However, others put forward the idea that sleeve gastrectomy is a sort of procedure that requires a long-term recovery process, in which your surgical wounds have to heal.
Waist trainers, girdles, and other kinds of shapewear are types of clothes that fit tightly around your stomach, suppressing the skin. Studies show that wearing abdominal binders after gastric sleeve reduces patients’ post-operative psychological distress (2). However, their effect on postoperative pain after sleeve gastrectomy remains unclear. In other words, they can even cause you more harm than good.
After the gauze on your wounds is removed, you need to allow your incisions to breathe and avoid any kind of harsh pressure. It is also suggested that you wear comfortable, loose, cotton clothes after your weight loss surgery.
What would happen if you wear one of these garments?
Putting pressure on the operated area during the post-surgery healing process will cause complications and side effects. Eventually, these garments may make you feel extremely uncomfortable.
High pressure in your stomach area can weaken your diaphragm and intercostal muscles. This can decrease their resistance and cause problems with your chest cavity, and even lead to hiatal hernia. (3) One of the studies shows that this intra-abdominal pressure may even cause deep vein thrombosis (DVT). (4) Other than these two, you may also face bladder pain or extreme pressure that can affect your breathing.
(1) Sachdeva A, Dalton M, Lees T. Graduated compression stockings for prevention of deep vein thrombosis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2018 Nov 3;11(11):CD001484. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD001484.pub4. PMID: 30390397; PMCID: PMC6477662.
(2) Rothman JP, Gunnarsson U, Bisgaard T. Abdominal binders may reduce pain and improve physical function after major abdominal surgery – a systematic review. Dan Med J. 2014 Nov;61(11):A4941. PMID: 25370959.
(3) Zhang HY, Liu D, Tang H, Sun SJ, Ai SM, Yang WQ, Jiang DP, Zhang LY. The effect of different types of abdominal binders on intra-abdominal pressure. Saudi Med J. 2016 Jan;37(1):66-72. doi: 10.15537/smj.2016.1.12865. PMID: 26739977; PMCID: PMC4724682.
(4) Huang GJ, Bajaj AK, Gupta S, Petersen F, Miles DAG. Increased intraabdominal pressure in abdominoplasty: delineation of risk factors. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2007 Apr 1;119(4):1319-1325. doi: 10.1097/01.prs.0000254529.51696.43. PMID: 17496607.