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Flying after Rhinoplasty surgery – Is it safe to do?

When deciding on having rhinoplasty surgery, working with the best doctor for your needs should be your top priority. After doing your homework, you may determine that the best surgeon for your situation does not practice in your city.  This is especially true when thinking about having revision rhinoplasty.

 

Discomfort

If a patient is given the go ahead to travel a few days following their rhinoplasty surgery, there is the possibility that they experience some discomfort while in the air. An increase in sinus pressure could result depending on your procedure, however using a saline spray may help alleviate the discomfort.

Bleeding

There is a discontinuity in the skin of the surgical site during the first week until scar formation occurs. The pressure fluctuation inside the plane could make you more susceptible to minor bleeding during this time due to circulatory pressure changes. Though this is rare, the major concern would be the limited access to medical care if a vessel were to begin to bleed.

Infection

Following surgery, the discontinuity in the skin increases your susceptibility to injury and infection. Avoid traveling in tightly packed compartments such as in the subway trains during peak traffic. As well, swimming, baths, pools and hot tubs are not safe for any surgical incision which isn’t completely closed and this does have a limiting factor on many people’s ideal vacation plans so it is important to understand what activity is allowed while healing. Avoid direct sun exposure till at least six weeks or until the incision heals as sunburns can damage traumatize the new skin and prolong the healing. Be sure to plan out your traveling schedule to give yourself enough time to recover.

Blood Clots

Most elective surgeries performed under general anesthesia carry a slight risk of blood clot formation. This is more of a concern for older patients, those who smoke or are obese and those who are taking hormone supplements or medication. A history of deep vein thrombosis or clots would put you at a slightly higher risk of experiencing this issue. In the early days after surgery, patients are encouraged to be immediately mobile, walk around slowly and reduce these risks. These precautions are typically more than adequate to ensure healthy circulation in the legs post operatively, however pressure changes and long periods of sitting still on a plane or lengthy drive would again, elevate those risks. For this reason, depending on the patient’s whole health picture, the surgeon will advise a required amount of time to pass before flying is considered safe. Dr. Shah usually recommends that on long flights or road trips that patients routinely get up and move around or get out of the car for a quick stretch.

Swelling

As mentioned before, lowered cabin pressure relative to blood pressure causes ankles to swell while sitting in an airplane. The nose can swell as well, because after surgery, it is susceptible to pressure related changes in nasal shape.

Patients are traveling more than ever now for both elective and non-elective surgery. Access to the internet and social media have made it so that patients can attempt to be their own best guide in finding the right doctor for their concerns. Often times, that doctor isn’t close to home. Most drive to find their surgeon, but some may have to fly. For those that have to fly it is important that they know the facts that will help them ensure a safe and successful experience.

About the author Manish H. Shah, MD, FACS

I am a board-certified plastic surgeon practicing in Denver, Colorado. I specialize in cosmetic surgery of the face and body. Rhinoplasty, Revision Rhinoplasty, and Ethnic Rhinoplasty are my favorite procedures.

All posts by Manish H. Shah, MD, FACS →

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