When is it safe to travel after your joint replacement?

When is it safe to travel after your joint replacement?
When is it safe to travel after your joint replacement?

A commonly asked question by those seeking a joint replacement is how soon can I fly after the surgery?

I generally recommend as soon as you are comfortable with sitting down, you can fly. Usually, three to four weeks is the minimum time. If the surgery was done within the last 6 weeks, I recommend blood thinner treatment for the prevention of blood clots. Recent surgery is a risk factor for blood clots as is prolonged sitting, and dehydration; make sure to drink water on your flight. For flights longer than 4 hours in duration, I recommend getting out of your seat and moving around the aircraft every few hours. Compression stockings can help prevent swelling in your legs and decrease the risk of blood clots. Taking aspirin before and after a long flight may also decrease this risk. However, if you have had a prior blood clot, have a family history of blood clots, are taking birth control pills or hormone replacement medications, have had recent surgery or have cancer, you may be at much higher risk. Sometimes prescription anticoagulants are recommended for individuals at high risk of blood clots.

After a joint replacement, most patients want to know if there joint replacement will set off airport security metal detectors? Belt buckles, key chains and smartphones may set off sensitive metal detectors at airport security checkpoints. Many commonly used orthopaedic implants may also set off the metal detectors. Over 90% of implanted total hip arthroplasty (THA) and total knee arthroplasty (TKA) devices will set off airport metal detectors. Many THA and TKA implants now include ceramic and plastic materials in addition to metal, and the metal will still likely cause an alarm. A card from your surgeon is no longer needed for identification of these type of implants.

If you or a family member has a metal implant, he or she should inform a Transportation Security Officer before screening begins. Passengers can use TSA’s notification card to communicate discreetly with security officers; however, showing this card or other medical documentation will not exempt a passenger from additional screening.

Many patients now prefer to be screened by imaging technology (X-ray Machine) to reduce the likelihood of a pat-down being necessary. If a pat-down is selected by the TSA, it will be helpful to wear clothes that allow you to easily reveal your surgical scar.