How long after surgery can I fly?

How long after surgery can I fly?

What complications can flying cause?

How long after surgery can I fly?

                  How long after surgery can I fly?

It’s natural to want to jump right back into your life’s activities after surgery. And in many cases, you can ease in to normal activities fairly quickly. However, air travel may not be such a great idea for a while.

Air travel is not something that usually comes up in post-operative instructions that patients receive. If you’ve had chest, abdominal, neurological or ear/nose/throat (anything on or near the head) surgery, doctors recommend a minimum of 10-14 days before allowing air travel.

The head and the lungs are very sensitive to pressure changes while healing. Most jet flights are pressurized to about 8,000 feet (2,400 meters) and this is a significant change in atmospheric pressure that can adversely affect a head or abdominal surgery site.

Less complicated or invasive surgeries, for example appendectomies or arthroscopic procedures require less time between surgery and flying.

Don’t Risk Complications

You certainly don’t want air travel to cause complications – surgery and recovery are traumatic enough! But the risk of complications does arise if you fly too soon and don’t take some simple precautions.

One of the biggest risks associated with air travel is deep vein thrombosis or DVT, which are blood clots in the veins of the legs.

Many patients develop these during their hospital stay (from lack of movement and the resulting poor circulation) – and air travel, especially long flights, can make things worse.

The relative immobility of air travel can cause circulation to slow. This can cause small clots to cluster together into larger clots, as well as allowing clots to grow.

Even if the patient doesn’t develop clots in the legs, any abdominal surgery, especially those lasting more than 1-2 hours, can predispose the body to formation of many small clots in deep veins. Many of these dissolve naturally, but since there are no symptoms prior to a clot causing a blockage, you may be unaware that you have a clot.

Thrombosis can be lethal, and strike with little or no warning as clots break loose and travel into the heart, lungs or brain.

Don’t Risk Infection

Another risk is infection. Airplanes are notorious for being “flying petri dishes” as many people fail to take even basic precautions and fly when they are sick.

Your body is already under a tremendous amount of stress due to the surgery, and chances are your immune system is taxed to its limit. Introducing bacteria and viruses during air travel can be extremely dangerous!

Precautions For A Safe Flight

When you finally get clearance to fly, take these precautions to make your flight safe, comfortable and healthy:

  • Make sure you’ve been mobile before the flight. Exercise helps dissolve small clots and improves circulation so that new clots don’t form.
  • Take aspirin or a stronger anticoagulant if there is ANY suspicion that clots may be present.
  • Stay hydrated but avoid caffeine and alcohol; hydration helps prevent thrombosis. Also stay away from sugary drinks, as sugar is known to interfere with the immune system.
  • If possible, walk the aisles or move to the lavatory area where you can stand and stretch your legs.
  • Wear compression stockings. These help promote circulation in the legs and also help prevent thrombosis.
  • If possible, get a bulkhead seat where there is more leg room – but avoid the exit rows, because if you sit there, you are required to assist the crew in case of an emergency.
  • Make sure any medications you need to take inflight are easily accessible so you don’t strain yourself or pull out stitches trying to pretzel yourself under the seat to reach your pills!
  • Sit near or over the wing of the airplane. Airplanes act like giant seesaws, and the ride is the smoothest in the middle. This is especially nice when you have tender body parts that don’t feel good being jostled!
  • Take an early morning flight. Morning air is generally significantly calmer than afternoon air – meaning less turbulence and less bouncing about.
  • Bring sanitizing wipes and wipe down your arm rest, seat belt buckle and tray table. Although the lavatory is cleaned after every flight, the passenger areas are NOT wiped down, and bacteria can live for several hours.
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