When it comes to flying, most of us can agree that the idea of sitting for a long period of time and the lack of space for a stretch isn’t too enticing. When it comes to recovery, these accommodations have no business helping that process; it doesn’t seem comfortable, especially when you’ve just completed a surgery. At times travel can be unexpected and require a quick book, but so can a surgery, and doing both may seem achievable when you’re really in a pinch to do so. However, doctors say flying right after a procedure creates a major health risk. Here’s what you should know:
A Primary Cause for Concern When Flying: Blood Clots
Did you know that everyone is at risk of a blood clot during a flight that lasts longer than 4 hours? Now imagine the risk you take when your body is already in a blood clotting stage during surgery recovery. Hemostasis, a natural process where the body intentionally creates a blood clot to stop injured blood vessels from bleeding and repair damaged tissue. This is crucial for healing and recovery.
Flying after lower limb surgeries such as the foot creates a great risk of experiencing deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a blood clot that occurs in the deep veins of the legs. Thus, patients recovering from foot or ankle surgery are especially at risk. DVTs are also dangerous because they can break off and travel through the bloodstream, up the legs, and into the lungs creating a blockage known as pulmonary embolism. In most cases, doctors who perform foot and ankle surgeries recommend that you avoid travel for at least 4 weeks, while some advise waiting 3 months or longer depending on your case. Your recovery time frame should always be discussed with your doctor directly.
How does flying increase risk of DVTs?
Air travel travel increases blood clotting for a few reasons:
Sitting down during a longer period of time; a catalyst for blood clots to form due to immobili
No room to stretch or provide more blood flow
Taking select oral contraceptives
Having a known predisposition to blood clots, or blood disorders
What if I absolutely can’t avoid traveling after my surgery?
As a last case scenario, and as approved by your doctor, here a few things you can do to prevent the risk for blood clotting:
Try to move as much as possible. Stand when appropriate, walk, or stretch down the aisle; take a restroom break
Massage your legs and calves by performing upward manipulations towards the heart to encourage blood flow
Wear a compression hose to increase circulation in your lower legs and feet
Avoid drinking caffeinated or alcoholic beverages during the flight. Drink your water and stay hydrated as much as possible
Life happens, and sometimes there is not a convenient time for a surgery, or a travel plan. If you have the option, scheduling your air travel during another time of year may be in your best interest to avoid any of these risks. If you are expecting a trip shortly after a surgery, talk with your doctor. Some cases can be modified due to the severity of the surgery, the type of surgery, and your expected recovery time. Wasatch Foot & Ankle recommends taking air travel plans seriously when it comes to scheduling a flight, so chat with your doctor today regarding any travel restrictions.