Flying after surgery

  • February 20, 2023
  • Orthopaedic Surgeon
Non-Robotic or Robotic-Assisted Surgery | Dr Jason Ward | Orthopaedic Surgeon

Flying after surgery

When you are considering flying after surgery, then you need to remember that simple things like walking around the airport, sitting in a chair for an extended period or experiencing turbulence may be uncomfortable after orthopaedic surgery.

BEFORE you plan travel or board a flight, it is important that you think about the issues  outlined below.

Hip Surgery - Dr Jason Ward

Flying after specific orthopaedic surgeries

In general terms, consider the timeframes below before flying after your orthopaedic surgery.


Wait Time

Arthroscopic (keyhole) surgery

1-2 days

Simple open surgery

3-5 days

Complicated open surgery

7-14 days

Joint replacement

1-2 weeks

These time frames are a general guide. Talk to Dr Jason Ward about your specific case if you are planning to travel to ensure your recovery is not affected.

Check Airline Regulations before Flying

It’s important when booking your flight to consider the individual regulations of your chosen airline.  Restrictions can vary by carrier.

Travel Insurance

It is vital that you read over your travel insurance policy as you may need to notify them about your surgery. Your travel insurance can be affected by surgical procedures.

Airport Security

It is common for metal implants including joint replacements to activate the metal detectors used in airports.  You will need to notify airport staff that you have had surgery and have joint replacements or other metal in place.

Flying with Splints

After a procedure where a splint is applied, flying may cause swelling which can impact circulation.  Please talk to Dr Ward about managing your splint if you are flying, as it may need to be loosened for travel.

Your Plane Seat

You shouldn’t have any trouble sitting in a standard seat if you are wearing a sling, or have a  brace which allows for knee bending.  However, you may need to organise alternative seating if your knee brace does not allow knee bending. This may require extra room or an upgraded seat.

Wheelchair Assistance

Talk to your airline when scheduling your travel, as often a wheelchair can be arranged at the airport and for boarding.  In Australia, wheelchair access is readily available at most airports.

Using crutches

Notify your airline if you are using crutches or a frame.  Normally, you will be allowed to take them on the plane with you, and they will be stored during the flight.

Medication Regulations

After orthopaedic surgery, you may require various medications. There are rules surrounding medication and travel. Make sure you research what your specific airline regulates in the cabin, and the rules of your travel destination. Some countries regulate the quantity and type of medications that you can bring with you when travelling.  You should be aware of these rules before travelling, and if travelling overseas you may want to contact the embassy of the country to which you are flying.

Travelling with Medicines

When travelling with medicines, make sure you keep them in their original packaging with the correct labels.  If available, also bring a copy of your medication prescription.  It’s a good idea to pack a spare medicine supply in case you lose the first. Make sure your medication does not expire during your travel period. Some medicines may have a required storage temperature. Talk to your pharmacist about how to store your medicine during travel.

Risk of Deep Venous Thrombosis (DVT)

After your procedure, you may have an increased risk of a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) developing when flying.  If you are already predisposed to developing DVT, speak to your GP for the best course of action.  When flying, regular movement around the plane and keeping well hydrated will decrease the risk of DVT.

Have Questions?

If you have further questions about after flying after surgery, please talk to Dr Jason Ward or your GP.

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