By Maria Oliveira
Finding a way to keep dressings in place for the upper body can be quite a challenge. Some people do well with ready-made garments made to accomplish this, such as Tubifast garments made by Molnlycke.
However, every patient is different and in my daughter Sarah’s case, these garments were too snug, especially in the arms, and hardly comfortable for her. For years I have made similar retention tops out of Surgilast or Spandage elastic retainers. The beauty of these home-made garments is that you can customize them, making the top itself or the sleeves as long as you like and you can make the neck come up higher to secure dressings in the collar/neck area. You can also make the armholes larger to provide even more comfort. Because Sarah has a feeding tube, I cut a small hole in the front to pull the tubing out and it holds everything nicely in place. You can wash and reuse these tops many, many times. (Note: I find that the Spandage brand holds up to more washes than the Surgilast, but either works well).
Cut some Surgilast or Spandage for the torso and some for the sleeves as the pattern below shows (Figure 1).
The size depends on what is comfortable for the person. Sarah is 13 years old and weighs 100 lbs. I currently use a size 10 for the torso and an 8 for the arms. To assemble the shirt, I stretch the torso piece over a box so that the corners of the box are sticking out through the armholes (Figure 2).
This makes it very easy to attach the sleeves. To attach the sleeves I stretch them over the corners of the box and stitch them to the armholes using a strip of 1” gauze. I attach a safety pin at the end of the gauze to weave in and out of the Surgilast as if I were hand-sewing. Knot the 1″ gauze to finish off the underarms, and you are done (Figure 3)!
Here’s what the finished product looks like: