What Should I Know About Flying After Open Heart Surgery?
Earlier this year, I interviewed 78 patients about their heart surgery experience. Most of those patients had open heart surgery – including heart valve replacement surgery and heart valve repair operations.
One of the questions asked during this survey was, “Did you travel outside your hometown for your cardiac surgery?”
Interestingly enough, 28% of patients surveyed had traveled (by plane) to have their surgeries performed by cardiac surgeons in other cities, states or countries.
Ultimately, the “out-of-town” heart patient should ask their cardiothoracic surgeon a key question prior to heart surgery. That question is, “When is it safe to fly after heart surgery?”
I’ll be very upfront with you. I do not have a quantitative / statistical answer for you. (Yes. It’s on my list of survey questions for next year. :))
Alternatively, I have some anectdotal information that might help you answer this question – if you are considering an out-of-town surgery. Typically, patients remain in the hospital for five days after their heart surgery procedure. However, if heart surgery patient complications occur (and they do), time in the hospital can extend for longer periods.
After leaving the hospital, most patients have follow-up visits with their surgeons two weeks post-surgery. Does that mean you have to remain in your surgeon’s city for the first two weeks of your recovery? Definitely not. I know of one patient who left the hospital after one week and then boarded a plane home to Fiji from California.
Is that advisable?
Well… My opinion when it comes to heart surgery is “Better Safe Than Sorry!”
That said, please, please, please ask your surgeon about flying home after heart surgery and make the necessary arrangements to ensure your safe travel home following heart surgery.
Keep on tickin!
Adam Pick is a patient, author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery and the founder of HeartValveSurgery.com.