Doctors make sure to tell their patients to not fly after surgeries, in order to help them prevent problems they may face after doing otherwise. The most common issue because of restriction of activity is formation of DVT or Deep Vein Thrombosis, which involves the formation of blood clots in deep veins of the leg.

Blood Clots lodged in superficial vein aren’t usually dangerous; however, those formed in deep vein can be, as they carry a possibility of breaking off and travelling to the lungs to create a blockage of arteries supplying blood to alveoli of the lungs. The first four weeks after the execution of the surgery carry maximum risk, and it becomes even more dangerous when the surgery has been performed below the waist. Though the risk of developing a blood clot during a flight is really low, if person is active and frequently moves his lower extremities. Travelling within 4 to 6 weeks following surgery is often associated with restricted movements of extremities because of fatigue, pain or generalized weakness. Sluggish circulation in elderly patient promotes rapid formation of blood clot if extremities are inactive for prolong period of time.

Involving yourself in air travel following knee surgery can increase risks of deep vein thromboses for various reasons. First, there’s the lack of movement of leg. Blood clotting is linked to lack of movement, and being strapped to a seat for hours can significantly increase the risk of developing blood clots in patients who have recently undergone knee surgery. Then there’s dehydration; the fact that people rarely keep themselves hydrated enough during flights and the low-humidity environments on planes promote dehydration, which further promotes blood clotting.

Air Travel Following Knee Surgery

Should You Travel After A Knee Surgery?

The answer should be obvious by now; NO. Knee surgeries are way below waistline, and hence, carry even larger risks of inducing blood clots in recently undergone knee surgery patients during travel. Travelling after a knee surgery is likely going to complicate things for you, which is why you should avoid air travel as much as possible for 10 to 12 weeks. You will probably have to experience various factors during a flight, including dehydration and immobility, which can easily induce such clots.

Using blood thinners and trying to move around as much as possible during your flight can help, but it certainly isn’t worth the risk. If you have to travel within a month and cannot avoid then one must drink frequent clear fluids during the course of travelling, try to move toes and ankle as often as possible also wear compression stockings, which are designed to increase the blood flow in legs.

Why an Air Travel After a Knee Surgery Can Hurt You?

Sitting through a long flight can reduce the blood circulation in your legs by two-thirds, which greatly increases the risk of a blood clot. The soft blood clot during initial phase of clot formation may break off and get carried with blood flow to heart. The clot may block arteries to lungs resulting in obstruction of blood flow to lung and produce fatal results. Rarely dislodged blood clot may travel and block arteries of brain and heart in individuals suffering with defects in septum between various chambers of heart. While the chances of developing a blood clot in normal individual during a flight are really low, but the probability is highly elevated for surgery patients. The reasons for rapid formation of clots are immobility of extremity, sitting position for prolong period time resulting in blood pooling to the lower leg, and dehydration.

How Long You Should Wait Before Flying Again After a Knee Surgery?

You should wait for at least a 2 to 3 month before scheduling a flight after a knee surgery. The immobility, dehydration, low humidity inside planes, and reduction in blood flow can significantly increase the risk of the development of a blood clot.

A period of at least 6 weeks should be spent without flying after a knee surgery.

What You Should Do When Flying After a Knee Surgery?

You shouldn’t fly soon after a knee surgery, say within 2 to 4 weeks if possible. You should discuss your flight plan with your surgeon and follow all the instruction carefully. However, even after you’ve waited long enough after a surgery, there still are things you should do to make sure you can travel as safely as you used to before your surgery. The following precautionary suggestions are often advised and you should discuss with your surgeon.

  • Move Around: It’s the best thing you can and should do when flying after undergoing knee surgery. Moving around frequently during your flight will keep your body from becoming immobile and promoting clot formation, reducing any chances of deep vein thrombosis and any other similar problems.
  • Stay Hydrated: Dehydration is another factor that can induce blood clot formations, which is why you should keep yourself as hydrated as possible. Many people tend to skip water consumption in order to prevent themselves from needing to use the restroom, which can easily cause major dehydration. Drink as much water as you can or as much as your body needs; don’t worry about the increased visits to the restroom, moving will only help you.
  • Get The Correct Socks: Wearing the correct type of socks during air travel can help increase the blood flow in your legs. Look for socks or stockings that provide a pressure of at least 15 to 30 mm Hg on your ankles. They will help you make sure that the blood pressure remains great enough to not promote unnecessary blood clotting. The pressure they’ll provide to your legs will help in the maintenance of appropriate blood flow during air travel, reducing any chances of your body developing abnormal, and probably fatal blood clots. You should discuss the choice of socks or leg compression with treating physician.
  • Get A V Leiden Test: 3 to 8% individuals in the general population carry a mutation that makes them more prone to experiencing abnormal blood clot formations. Make sure to get a factor V Leiden test before flying, as according to data collected by research, people carrying this mutation are 18 times likelier to experience a deep vein thrombosis because of air travel.
  • Shift Your Diet: According to a study conducted in 2007, having at least four servings of vegetables and fruits per day, or one or more servings of fish per week can reduce the risk of blood clot formations. Individuals who consume a lot of red or processed meat carry a greater risk; and this is why altering your diet according to this information can be of great help, especially when you need to travel after having a knee surgery.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: August 25, 2016

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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