Can You Wear a Bra During Surgery?

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You must get your body ready for surgery once your doctor determines the best surgical plan for your medical condition. This leads you to the question, can you wear a bra during surgery? I’m going to answer questions about clothing restrictions for surgery, especially involving undergarments.

Can You Wear a Bra During Surgery?

No, you can’t wear a bra during surgery if the operation revolves around the upper part of the body. For minor surgeries in other parts of the body, it depends on the doctor or surgical team. However, it’s standard for patients not to wear undergarments during major surgeries.

Graphic image of doctors operating on a patient with a text explaining that you can't wear a bra during surgery

It’s common to see patients wearing hospital gowns before heading to the operating room. You can normally use bras or underwear when admitted to a hospital room. However, a surgical team would often require patients not to wear undergarments.

Reasons Why You Cannot Wear Bras During Surgery

You will mainly be wearing a hospital gown during surgery. This is due to a number of reasons involving efficiency and accuracy, especially for the medical team.

  • Quick access to the chest: It’s imperative to remove the bra during surgery if the surgeons need to make incisions in the chest area. Bra straps, bands, and cups may prevent a surgeon from accessing your heart or cutting through the sternum.
  • Mark the chest: In some cases, surgeons will put markings on the chest before the surgery. Not wearing a bra can help the doctor finish the task faster and more accurately.
  • Ensure cleanliness: Surgical teams use sterilized instruments and rooms to prevent site infections. Even a freshly-cleaned bra from home may catch germs and microorganisms that can enter the body.
  • Protection while under anesthesia: General anesthesia is a reversible drug-induced coma. You will start breathing more quickly and shallowly while you are unconscious, and the volume of your expiratory reserve will diminish, preventing proper gas exchange. A bra’s compressive qualities, especially wired ones, might exacerbate these consequences.
  • Emergency incisions: Even if the surgery does not involve the chest, some patients may have pulmonary problems during the procedure. In such circumstances, the medical staff should be able to make an incision on your chest immediately.
  • Avoid burns: Some fabrics can get hot when in contact with a cauterizing device, which surgeons use to cut tissue. It’s not advisable to place this device next to a bra’s metal hook or soft fabric because it generates heat using a high-frequency current.
An image of a doctor and patient

The Benefits of Not Wearing a Bra During Surgery

Every second counts in the operating room, and not having a bra can save precious seconds for the doctors. Surgeons and nurses won’t have the time to roll you over and unclasp a bra should they need to do CPR or use a defibrillator.

A bra would enclose the thorax, increasing the muscular effort required by the body to control respiration. The diaphragm won’t receive the normal assistance from the muscles to expand the chest for breathing during spinal or epidural treatments. A bra’s compressive properties would only add pressure.

You might feel self-conscious about not wearing a bra, especially because people would be able to see your torso. However, the surgical team consists of medical professionals who follow ethics and rules. Besides, they will drape some form of blanket over the rest of the body.

What You Can Wear During Surgery

You will only wear a hospital gown and no bra for most surgeries, particularly those that involve the chest area. The surgeons need to expose the chest for sternotomy, which allows doctors to reach the heart, vessels, and other nearby organs.

An image of a patient wearing hospital gown

During a C-section, some obstetric anesthesiologists permit mothers who have modesty concerns to wear bras with the hook undone.

However, even if it’s surgery on the brain or face, most hospitals and clinics will prepare a hospital gown for you to wear. Your normal clothes can be too restrictive and cause unnecessary compression to the body.

Related Questions

What Should I Not Wear During Surgery?

You cannot wear regular clothing during surgery, especially anything too tight. Depending on the surgical site, a nurse will often inform you what you can wear underneath the gown.

Can I Use Underwear During Surgery?

In general, you can have underwear during surgery, including hospital-supplied panties, unless the procedure is close to the groin. For instance, surgeons may need to harvest saphenous veins from the legs for bypass surgery. Likewise, you can’t use underwear if the doctors are working on a catheter.

What Bra Can I Wear After Surgery?

The kind of bra you can wear after surgery will also depend on your recovery plan. For breast implants, there are support bras that can reduce swelling and restrain mobility. Meanwhile, you can use bralettes or sports bras with front zippers for sutures on the chest after surgery.

What Is a Longline Bra? (And What Situations To Wear One)


Generally speaking, you cannot wear a bra while having surgery, especially if the treatment involves the chest. A bra may obstruct the field of vision of the surgeons, decreasing their effectiveness.  Nevertheless, you can wear several types of bras after recovering from surgery.


Allena is the Founder and Editor of The Better Fit, a platform dedicated to empowering women with practical advice on bras and fitness, inspired by her own revelation of the widespread issue of incorrect bra sizing. Her expertise and tips have been recognized by major publications such as Cosmopolitan, Better Homes & Gardens, Insider, and NBC, making her a trusted voice in women's wellness and lifestyle.