'Custom undies' for patients in treatment for obesity

UAlberta researcher launches bariatric support garment clinics across the province

Laurie Wang - 11 October 2016

Marty Enokson calls it the "spanx for larger people," and thanks to a new University of Alberta study, these unique, custom-made garments for patients in treatment for obesity are now available in clinics across Alberta.

"After I lost weight, I felt like a flying squirrel because there's so much loose skin flying about," said Enokson, 49, who underwent bariatric surgery eight years ago. "The garments are like custom undies-they control the loose skin and keep things in place. You are flatter in the stomach and whole body."

Mary Forhan, professor of occupational therapy in the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, and her team launched six bariatric support garment clinics across Alberta this month.

Teaming up with bariatric clinics across the province, these specialized clinics are open to anyone who lives with excess skin due to weight loss in Edmonton, Calgary, Red Deer, Grande Prairie and Medicine Hat. Forhan is leading a one-year pilot program to study the impact of the custom garment on functional mobility and quality of life, as well as the durability and satisfaction with the custom garment.

"Results of the one-year pilot program will be presented to the Alberta government for consideration for inclusion of the garment in the provincial aids for daily living program," she said.

Reports will also be presented to insurance companies for consideration in various benefits packages. The garments are intended to provide support and comfort for people living with excess tissue during and after significant weight loss who are waiting for reconstructive surgery or for whom surgery is not an option.

"Our preliminary study last year showed that 93 per cent of patients found that wearing the garment increased their confidence and comfort to participate in everyday activities including exercise. Those patients now all wear their garments every day," said Forhan.

The garments come from a company in France that has specially trained consultants to take measurements. Each piece is custom-made for the wearer and made of material that takes into account moisture control and heat control while wearing the garments.

Katelyn Teske, clinical bariatric consultant and occupational therapist in the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, went to France in September to receive the specialized training to do fittings on bariatric patients.

"The garments are tailor-made; there really is no other garment in Canada like it," said Teske. "We've already had a number of people sign up to be fitted, and it's exciting to see so much support for this pilot program."

Enokson actually attempted to make a garment of his own before he found out about the specialized bariatric garments from Forhan.

"These are definitely better," he said. "The material is excellent and it hasn't torn or changed after I've worn them for a year. They are tailored and they make sure it is going to fit you in every possible way-it's very comfortable."

A paralegal for the Crown Prosecutor's Office, Enokson wears his garments every day. "Sitting on a bike or running on a treadmill, I'm tired of being that spectacle because of all the loose skin. I wear the garments and I feel like I'm treated like everyone else. It brings you confidence while you're doing great things to make yourself live healthier."

The long-term goal is that the garment fitting clinics in Alberta will be used as a training and education opportunity for other provinces in Canada interested in making the garments available to their patients.

This study is funded by the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine Endowment Fund for the Future: Support for the Advancement of Scholarship (EFF-SAS) Research Fund.

For more information on the Bariatric Support Garment Clinics, contact Katelyn Teske at bsgc@ualberta.ca or 780-492-9020, or visit the clinics' Facebook Page.