Why Heart Pillows are Ineffective After Heart Surgery

Posted by Heart Hugger on Sep 20, 2019 7:00:00 AM

heart pillow

If you’re looking at information related to heart surgery and recovery, chances are you’ve heard about heart pillows (also known as chest or cough pillows). 

The heart pillow is provided by many hospitals to be used after heart surgery or sternotomies. Heart pillows used after surgery are meant to give patients something to hold to their chest when they need to cough or sneeze or to try and help alleviate some pain.

So the question is: are heart pillows truly useful additions to surgery recovery plans?



There is no evidence that Heart Pillows are an effective way to help patients heal after heart surgery. There is also a lack of evidence that sternotomy pillows help reduce the number of complications that arise following surgery. Heart pillows after surgery do not serve as a therapeutic aid to patients.

Pillows Can Cost Hospitals

Although once believed to be a viable solution for patients in pain, Heart Pillows can cost hospitals tremendously in the future due to complications that the pillows do not address. Here are a few facts about the use of the pillow:

  • Pillows cannot reduce sternal wound infections (DSWI), which results in high costs to hospitals.
  • Pillows cannot splint the sternotomy, and it puts downward pressure on the wound.
  • Pillows do not function as consistent support as they must be held in place by the patient when it’s needed.
  • Pillows always risk introducing infections as they come into constant contact with environmental surfaces such as car seats, couches, floors, etc.
  • Using a pillow promotes a more sedentary recovery, which is precisely the opposite of what should be happening following heart surgery.
  • There are no evidence-based guidelines for post-surgical care using the pillow.
  • Pillows do not help reduce a patient’s pain level.
  • Using a pillow does not help give patients the confidence needed to perform their respiratory exercises without fear of making their wounds worse.


To sum up, there is simply no scientific evidence showing a heart pillow’s efficacy. One issue is that heart pillows cannot be accessed by patients at all times. Additionally, there are some questions about whether heart pillows are too unhygienic to be kept near wounds. Because pillows can be placed anywhere and are made of fabric, they can easily pick up germs.

The claims made by Heart Pillow manufacturers would lead one to believe that they have tested and proved the pillow to be viable sternal support, but that just isn’t the case. The Heart Pillow has slipped through the cracks of today’s evidence-based medicine. 

Heart Pillows serve as great mementos and may provide a little comfort for patients, but there is a more effective, clinically-proven alternative. 


Want a different option with scientific evidence backing its effectiveness? Meet the Heart Hugger. The Heart Hugger is a sternal harness worn by patients who need sternal support and wound stability. Like the heart pillow, the Heart Hugger can be used for coughing and sneezing, but with better results and more hygienic makeup.

Heart Hugger offers even more benefits beyond that as well. Patients are fitted for the device before surgery, then immediately after surgery, the patient begins wearing it. Rather than a soft item that can be easily misplaced and may not even help, the Heart Hugger is worn round the clock and offers evidence-based solutions.

Find out more about sternal support, wound stability, and pain management with the Heart Hugger by contacting us today!


And, for medical professionals who want to learn more about the benefits of Heart Hugger for patients and hospitals, please visit our resource page for healthcare professionals or contact us.

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