Knee replacement surgery is major surgery. It is essential to undergo complete and proper rehabilitation with focused physical therapy for a full recovery. Poor adherence to the recovery process can affect the success of the surgery overall.
One of the most common questions that people ask after a knee replacement surgery is how soon can they travel by air. The answer to this question depends on various factors such as flight duration, overall health, and the recovery phase.
Usually, a patient having undergone total or partial knee replacement surgery needs to wait at least six weeks before he can take his first flight. This much time is required to recover from the surgery.
Read on to know what precautions you need to take while traveling by air after knee surgery. Also, understand the complications that could occur due to prolonged travel.
Also read our article on the right recliners for knee replacement patients
Why Can You Not Travel by Air Immediately After Knee Replacement Surgery?
Traveling after knee replacement is prohibited as, at that stage, the knee is still recovering. During this time, the knee bone and surrounding muscles are getting used to the implant. All the tissues and muscles around the knee are weak and healing. Thus, they need proper physical therapy before they are strong enough to support the knee.
Traveling by air or any other mode of transport means keeping the leg down in one position for a long time. It leads to less blood circulation in the legs and around the knees. It is one of the main causes of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT).
In this condition, blood clots (thrombus) form in one or more of the deeper veins, usually in the legs. It causes the leg to swell, pain, and become tender. These clots tend to break away. They get lodged in the lung, leading to pulmonary embolism, which could be fatal.
The main reason for DVT occurrence is due to immobility of the body after a knee operation. You need to take extra care during the recovery period. Thus, doctors recommend rest and proper physiotherapy for about 6 weeks before allowing air travel.
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Precautions to Take When Traveling by Air
In general, there is a high risk of blood clot formation immediately after knee surgery, whether you are planning to travel or not. However, this risk can be minimized. All you need is the recommended rest and physical therapy before travel.
You could take the following precautions if you plan to embark on a journey by air.
You must discuss your travel plans with your knee surgeon before getting on that flight. Most likely, he will prescribe a blood thinner to reduce the chances of developing a blood clot.
It is important to wear loose-fitting clothes while traveling. Loose clothing is comfortable, and you can move your leg easily. They will also be helpful if you are asked to show your surgical incision during screening.
There are many exercises that you can do while sitting in the aircraft to have proper blood circulation. These exercises include calf squeezes and ankle pumps. Start by doing calf raises where you lift your heels off the floor and contract your calf. Hold it for about 15 seconds and relax. Do this about 10 times and repeat it after every 30 minutes.
Another helpful exercise is ankle circles, where you lift your foot and make circles with the big toe. You could also rotate the foot clockwise and anticlockwise a few times. One more helpful stretch for the legs is to pull your knees to your chest. These simple movements will go a long way in keeping those muscles relaxed and pain-free.
- Compression Stockings
Wear compression stockings while traveling as they will hold your knees in place during long flights. They fit snugly around your knee. Compression stockings exert gentle pressure on the legs that helps boost the blood flow. Thus, they reduce the chances of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
These stockings come in a range of sizes and lengths. They are available with different strengths of compression. It is best to ask your surgeon what kind of stockings are best suited for your condition.
It is essential to remain hydrated while on the flight. The air-conditioning and the closed environment of the flight can leave you dehydrated. Drink plenty of liquids like water, electrolyte drinks, and fresh juice. Avoid dehydrating beverages like alcohol and coffee.
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Tips While Planning Your First Flight After Knee Surgery
You might be restless and want to travel soon after knee surgery. However, remember to give yourself enough time to recover. Here are a few tips to make your travel breezy and convenient.
- Make use of web-check in so that you can book a preferred seat well in advance. Also, this will ensure that you do not have to wait for a long time at the check-in counter.
- Try to book a front seat in the aircraft so that you are the first one to exit after the plane lands. You will not have to wait for a long time in the aisle while the other passengers disembark.
- Book an aisle seat so you can stretch your legs out when you want. Ensure to stretch occasionally during the flight to keep the blood circulation going strong.
- Apply for a TSA PreCheck. It allows expedited screening for eligible travelers as they do not have to remove their shoes, light outerwear, belts, and other things. You need to fill an online application for it. Also, pay the required amount, and show it at the check-in counter. It will save you a lot of time during the boarding procedure.
- Buy a priority boarding pass or premium access for your flight. It is the easiest way to ensure that you can get to the front of the line and possibly have access to the lounge.
- Though this service comes at a price, it is worth every penny spent. Check the status of the priority boarding pass for your flight online. It will have all details about the payment and services.
A holiday is a great way to aid the recovery process after knee surgery. Six weeks is usually the recommended time before knee surgery patients can take their first flight. However, it is always best to seek your doctor’s advice before making any travel plans.
Whenever you plan to fly down, take the necessary precautions and use the tips given above. They will make your air travel comfortable and hassle-free.
Bon Voyage and happy landings!
For more precaution and tips after replacement surgery, below are the list that may help you.
- Driving After Knee Replacement
- Bike Riding After Knee Replacement
- Yoga After Knee Replacement
- Hiking After Knee Replacement
- Skiing After Knee Replacement
- How Long to Wear Compression Stockings After Knee Replacement Surgery?
- Can You Damage a Knee Replacement if You Fall on It?
- Can You Kneel Down After a Knee Replacement?