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Travelling After Joint Replacement Surgery

Overview

Joint Replacements of the hips and knees are procedures that enable hundreds of thousands of patients each year to resume their active lifestyles.  Since we are all individuals, the way we respond to the stress of surgery will vary. It is not unusual for some patients to return to activities of daily living, sporting activities and travel sooner than expected. Each patient’s recovery is different. The time when a patient is ready for travel varies based on the patient and the procedure. Traveling by plane, train and/or automobile compounded by jet lag can take its toll on anyone, especially a patient in the post-surgical recovery phase.

Risk of Travel

Ideally, it is recommended to avoid travel in the immediate postoperative period, within 6 weeks after a knee replacement. The main risks stem from the potential inactivity associated with long hours in a seated position during the time your body is trying to reestablish blood flow around your surgical site. Normally the muscles in your lower extremity act as pumps to help move blood through the extremity with their rhythmic contraction and relaxation during normal activity. Inactivity during travel can lead to blood pooling which is associated with an increased risk of DVT or Blood clots in the lower extremities. These can sometimes migrate to the lungs and lead to severe breathing problems and possibly death.

Helpful Strategies for Travel

Should it be necessary for you to travel during your post-op period, here are some tips and recommendations to improve your comfort and enhance your safety during your travels: 

  • Book an aisle or bulkhead seat or, better yet, business or first class if possible 
  • If you are travelling on a plane for longer than 1 hour, beginning 2 days prior to your trip begin taking one 81mg aspirin twice a day, continue with    this until 14 days after your trip
  • Wear compression hose
  • Walk/stretch every half hour to an hour in the aisle or on the road to avoid deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
  • Do ankle pumps while seated on the plane or in the car between walking in the aisle or stopping to walk while on the road
  • Stay well hydrated
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Use a cane
  • Use wheelchair services at the airport and when available
  • Be sure to tell security you had a knee replacement
  • Take medication just before boarding and/or long excursions;
  • Avoid large crowds if possible;
  • Take your time and use a cane or rely on your spouse/partner/friend as support
  • Don’t overexert yourself

Consult your surgeon prior to surgery regarding any travel plans that may impact your recovery. Follow your doctors’ orders on when to resume travel safely. Adhering to doctor’s orders will provide for the most successful recovery and help ensure your quality of life in the long term. 

 

Bon Voyage!

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