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Why wearing compression after surgery has a direct benefit on your result

Jan 17, 2023

Many people take for granted that you wear a compression garment, or faja, after you've had a plastic or cosmetic surgical procedure. But does anyone really know why it's important?

While many surgeons may not acknowledge just how beneficial compression is during the recovery process, a postop therapist like me who has an in-depth understanding of how compression works is often shocked by what is shared on social media platforms like Instagram.

Medical postoperative compression has science behind its effectiveness, and it is based on two laws of pressure: The Law of Laplace and Pascal's Law. Both of these laws of pressure effect the microcirculation and fluid balance in the body - meaning compression has an effect on fluid in the tissues caused by the trauma from surgery.

So, how does it work?

The Law of Laplace says that the pressure inside an inflated elastic container, with a curved surface, like a ballon (or blood vessel), is inversely proportional to the surface, as long as the surface tension doesn't change. If you imagine that balloon being blown up, the surface area will expand and the thickness of the container will decrease. Now, imagine placing that balloon inside another, the additional balloon gives it some external compression and it will make blowing up the balloon much more difficult. 

Pascal's Law is a principle in fluid mechanics developed by Blaise Pascal that says that a pressure change at any point in a confined space, containing fluid, will be transmitted throughout the fluid so that the same change occurs everywhere. Think about a tube of toothpaste with holes in the tube. If you press down on the tube at the bottom, a similar force will be pushed upwards causing the paste to squeeze out of the holes.

However, if the tube of toothpaste was inside an elastic container, it would limit the amount of paste squeezing out of the holes. Medical compression works in much the same way.

If you now think of how these two laws of pressure effect veins and the tissues containing fluid, you can see just how beneficial wearing compression garments are. But, there is often the misconception that compression must be really tight to 'snatch' the body. In fact, tighter is NOT better. When there is an increase in tissue swelling after surgery caused by an inflammatory process, lymphatic function becomes compromised - meaning swelling isn't being effectively removed from the tissues. This is due to the initial lymphatic collectors being either compressed or have collapsed because of increased pressure in the interstitium - the tissue spaces. So if compression is too tight any remaining healthy and functioning lymphatics need space to do their job. Not have further dysfunction to lymphatics caused by wearing compression that is too strong.

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