Medical Q&As

Fitness to fly - post surgery?

In general how long should a person wait after surgery before travelling by plane?

It is difficult to answer your question in general terms because post-operative fitness to travel by plane very much depends on the form of surgery that has been performed and the nature of the anaesthetic that was used. For example, if the surgery involved the removal of a lesion on the surface of the skin and did not require the use of a general anaesthetic then an air journey could possibly be undertaken the same day. However, if a general anaesthetic was required then air travel should probably be deferred for several days. If on the other hand the surgery involved the introduction of air or gas into the body then travel by plane should be deferred for at least 10 days. This scenario arises whenever a body cavity is opened such as performing surgery on the chest and abdomen. When the abdomen is opened room air can enter the cavity and remain there when the person is stitched up at the end of the operation. This air is gradually absorbed into the body and disappears completely within a few days. However, if a person undertook a plane journey while air was still present in the abdomen that air would expand as the plane ascended to a high altitude and could at least make for a very uncomfortable flight. Also, people who have undergone surgery to their sinuses or the middle ear would be well advised not to fly for several weeks after surgery because the changes in cabin pressure during the flight could cause extreme pain. In general terms, if there is any doubt about a personís fitness to fly it is best to consult with their GP for specific advice because the GP is in possession of the relevant facts about the personís medical history.