Is flying after surgery safe? Find out the most common questions about flying post-surgery. Make sure to always speak to your doctor before booking.
How safe it is to fly after surgery will vary greatly depending on the type of surgery undergone. Flying after smaller surgeries, which rarely lead to complications, may pose very little risk to the passenger's health as long as appropriate time is left for recovery. However, flying after major surgery may be unsafe as passengers may be at risk of infection or deep vein thrombosis (blood clots).
Flying after surgery can sometimes be dangerous due to an increase in the risk of deep vein thrombosis (blood clots in your deep veins). Part of this risk comes from the fact you are generally inactive after surgery, and thus your muscles are not being utilised to pump blood around the body. In addition, those who are flying after knee or hip surgery might be at a higher risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), making it dangerous to fly. You can read more about preventing DVT here. If you had had any kind of surgery, it is always recommended that you speak to your doctor before flying.
DVT is caused by anything that stops the blood from flowing. A risk for DVT is sitting in the same position for a long period of time as this can slow down the circulation and cause blood to coagulate in the veins in your legs. Please ensure with your doctor that it's safe for you to travel and that you're at low risk of blood clots.
The first tip is to avoid long-haul flights. Blood clots are caused when you are sitting in the same position for a long time. Therefore, long-haul flights should be avoided for a few weeks after surgery.
If you are in need to travel on short-haul flights weeks after surgery then we recommend that you extend your legs or move your body every hour when you can as this will help with blood circulation.
Cataract surgery rarely causes complications, for this reason, many doctors will allow patients to fly 24 hours after surgery. Always check with your doctor and the airline before making your flight booking.
It is generally recommended to wait four to six weeks to fly after any lower limb surgery. It may be possible to fly on short-haul or domestic flights at an earlier time, but patients should always contact their GP to make sure that there is not an aggravated risk of blood clots.
While keyhole surgery (also known as arthroscopic surgery) is often considered a minor procedure, it is generally agreed that patients recovering from arthroscopic (keyhole) knee surgery should wait at least two weeks before flying. Some patients may have difficulty walking for the first week after their arthroscopy and may want to wait until their mobility returns before flying.
If you have recently had a hip replacement, some people may be fine and safe to travel on short-haul flights as early as one week after your surgery. However, if you are planning to take a long-haul flight, it is recommended that you wait until at least 3 months after the surgery. This is because these longer flights can restrict blood flow due to lack of movement, increase the discomfort from your surgery which can delay and disrupt the healing. You general health may also be affected, such as dehydration from plane cabins, which in turn may hinder your healing process. If you are outside these time frames, it is still recommended that you check with your doctor before travelling to ensure you have the go-ahead from a medical professional. You may also benefit from contacting the airport and airline when you do decide to travel, to see what mobility assistance you can obtain.
Laparoscopy is a form of surgery on the abdomen which is done without making a large incision in the stomach. It is often considered a minimal procedure. The National Health Service in the United Kingdom generally recommends waiting at least four to five days before flying after simple abdominal surgery. However, it is important to check with both the airline and your medical professional before reserving your flight tickets.
Flying after sinus surgery is generally discouraged, as the changes in the aircraft's cabin pressure may cause pain and swelling in the sinuses. For this reason, those who have recently undergone sinus surgery should avoid flying for at least two weeks after the operation. Patients may also take up to a week to recover fully from their sinus surgery, during this period air travel is not generally recommended.
Cartorid artery surgery is a procedure to remove fatty deposits that have caused a narrowing of the cartorid artery with the intention of reducing the risk of stroke. Patients may find it takes up to four weeks to recover fully from the surgery. There are currently no known cases of flying causing harm to patients after catorid surgery. However, patients recovering from cartorid endarterectomies will need to contact the airline they are traveling with alongside their travel insurance provider to let them know about their condition.
If you have recently had a ileostomy, colostomy or urostomy and are planning on flying after having a stoma bag put in, then the good news is that you are still able to travel. With some planning and preparation and contact with the airline, you will usually be able to fly after having a stoma bag put in. As people with Stoma Bags are considered to have a hidden disability, there is full information on planning and preparation on flying with a stoma bag on the hidden disability page.
Passengers recovering from retinal tear laser surgery should wait until their medical professional declares it safe for them to fly before flying. Doctors may inject a gas bubble into the eye to hold the retina in place while it heals. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that patients avoid flying or scuba diving after such a procedure as changes in air pressure changes may cause the gas bubble to expand. For this reason, patients should aim to remain at the same altitude until their medical professional has confirmed it is safe for them to fly after their retinal surgery.
A tonsillectomy is the surgical procedure to remove the tonsils. Tonsillitis is an infection of the tonsils that can make your tonsils swell which may result in tonsillectomy. You're advised to wait 2 weeks before you fly after tonsillectomy surgery.
Brain surgery is considered major surgery. It is generally recommended that patients recovering from major surgery should wait seven to ten days before flying. Always consult your medical professional before booking a flight or travelling after surgery.
Passengers are often encouraged to wait at least one week to ten days before flying after any form of heart surgery. In the case of a coronary artery bypass graft, passengers should always wait at least 10 days before travelling and make their medical professional aware of the trip.
One of the biggest risks of flying after plastic surgery is developing DVT. This causes fatal blood clots due to sitting in the same position on the plane. After facial plastic surgery or cosmetic surgery, you are advised to wait 1-2 weeks for short-haul flights and 4-6 weeks for long-haul flights.
There are two types of surgery you might receive if you're having a hernia repaired or removed.
The first is a laparoscopic hernia surgery, which, like all other laparoscopic surgeries, you should wait at least 4–5 days before flying.
The second type of surgery you might receive is open hernia surgery. If you have open hernia surgery, you should wait at least 10 days before flying, sometimes more depending on the extent of the surgery. Your doctor/surgeon will be able to advise you on the extent of the surgery and when it will be safe for you to fly again. As with any surgery, it's important to make the airline aware of your recent surgery, so that they're prepared to help with any complications.
Flying after gallbladder removal?
There are two types of surgeries for gallbladder removal and it depends on the type of surgery you've had in order to know your recovery time. Most people who have had a keyhole surgery can be discharged from the hospital on the same day of the operation. It will normally take around two weeks for you to return back to your normal activities. An open surgery, however, will mean you will have to stay in the hospital for three to five days, and your recovery time will be longer. It can take around six to eight weeks for you to return back to your normal state. You should make your doctor/surgeon aware of your departure date and the airline aware of your recent surgery.
Different airlines will have their own regulations about flying after surgery. Whether you are fit enough to fly after surgery will depend heavily on the type of surgery you've had. Always consult your doctor, your health insurance provider and the airline you are flying with before making your flight reservation.
Need further advice about flying with reduced mobility? Please visit our wheelchair assistance page.