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Tips for flying after open heart surgery and your alternatives

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Tips for flying after open heart surgery and your alternatives

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As a recent open-heart surgery patient, your fear of experiencing cardiovascular and other health complications while flying is understandable. Being trapped into an airplane 35,000 feet in the sky, inhaling dry air in a pressurized germ-infested cabin with low humidity and reduced oxygen level hour after hour, with no guarantee that your seatmate is a board-certified cardiologist, is indeed a reasonable source of concern.

The key points to remember about flying long distances after an open-heart surgery:

  • Cardiologists recommend waiting at least 10 days after open-heart surgery before flying. Patients who have had open-heart surgery in addition to having cardiopulmonary complications should wait at least 4 to 6 weeks before scheduling a regular flight.
  • Commercial air travel after any type of surgery is associated with significant health risks. Overworking your heart, acute fatigue and dehydration, DVT, heart attacks, and strokes are the most common.
  • Our ambulance jets, which are outfitted with modern and sophisticated medical equipment and staffed by certified and experienced medical professionals, are the preferred option for flying long distances safely, quickly, and comfortably.

Traveling timeline after open-heart surgery (and useful tips for a safe flight)

Long-distance commercial flights are typically safe a minimum of 10 days following an open-heart surgery. However, you should keep in mind that flying shortly after surgery (of any kind) poses serious health risks and that patients with cardiovascular diseases should always exercise caution while flying, regardless of whether they recently underwent surgery or not. In any event, it is strongly advised to first consult with a cardiologist and follow any specific recommendations he makes. Heart medications should be brought, and no doses should be missed during the flight.

Useful tips for a safe flight include:

  • wearing compression stockings;
  • consuming plenty of fluids (excluding beverages that contain caffeine or alcohol);
  • carrying adequate supplies of all prescribed heart medications;
  • carrying a copy of your medical information in case of an emergency abroad;
  • carrying emergency phone numbers of your doctor(s), family members and destination contacts
  • confirming with your doctor that your recovery from open-heart surgery is on the right track and that your cardiac disease is stable.

It is usually considered safe to fly commercially after open heart surgery, chest surgery, stent replacement, or coronary artery bypass graft after a minimum of 10 to 14 days. However, regardless of the time since surgery, your body may react differently in the unfamiliar environment of a regular aircraft's cabin, especially if you have a cardiovascular disease.

flying after surgery

After 2 weeks

Even though doctors usually recommend waiting full revocery after open-heart surgery (coronary artery bypass graft) or chest surgery before flying commercially, special precautions must be taken after that time period. It is recommended that you check with your airline before booking a regular flight, as different companies have different rules for post-surgery travelers. Patients who have had an open-heart surgery (and those suffering from cardiovascular issues in general) should avoid wearing clothing that is too tight to prevent circulation problems and, in turn, deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

Did you know that? DVT is a condition in which blood clots form in the legs' deep veins. Slow circulation caused by prolonged sitting in the same position is one risk factor. This is what happens when you spend several hours on a plane.

After 3 months

You may be close to full recovery at this point, but you are not quite there. Above all, you will want to avoid overworking your heart, for example by not standing in long lines, not carrying heavy luggage, and avoiding all types of stressors. If flying makes you nervous, consider taking anti-anxiety medication to keep your heart rate low without jeopardizing your circulation. However, avoid taking sleeping pills because they may cause you to sleep in a circulation-cutting position for an extended period of time. Also, because being active on an airplane can be difficult, request a seat near the front or rear of the plane so you can stretch your legs as much as possible. Drink plenty of water because the low humidity in cabins raises the risk of dehydration.

After 6 months

At this point, long-haul commercial flights may come with considerations such as dehydration or extended hours of immobilization. You should also keep a close eye on your diet. Avoid succumbing to the temptation of sugary and high-fat foods which may raise your cholesterol level. Fatty deposits are, in fact, the leading cause of heart attacks and strokes.

After 1 year

After a year, many open-heart surgery patients have fully recovered. Nonetheless, it is critical to maintain precautions when traveling. Check the status of your travel insurance. Before flying, make an appointment with a doctor if anything seems out of the ordinary. Also, make sure you have access to medical care in your destination country.

Did you know that? In general, you can fly if you can walk briskly for 100 meters on a flat surface without becoming out of breath or having chest pain.

What risks are associated with flying (too soon) after open-heart surgery?

Most open-heart surgery patients who are not critically ill can fly commercially after at least two weeks. On the other hand, passengers experiencing the following symptoms/conditions should avoid flying commercially without proper medical assistance or should postpone travel until their condition improves:

  • Myocardial infarction (heart attack);
  • Unstable angina or uncontrolled arrhythmias;
  • Awaiting further investigation, revascularization, or device therapy;
  • Showing signs and symptoms of poorly controlled heart failure (ejection fraction <40).

Even if your doctor has given you carte blanche to fly, keep in mind tha long-distance flights (of at least 2 hours) pose serious health risks for patients with cardiovascular issues, as well as patients who have recently undergone surgery of any kind.

Long-haul flights can result in immobility, time zone changes, sleep deprivation, and jet lag. As a result, even after the other physical effects of cardiac procedures have healed, fatigue is one of the most serious issues for heart and recent surgery patients. A difference in air pressure within the cabin can cause hyperventilation or hypoxia. The lack of medical facilities and a certified medical professional during such a critical time can also lead to negative health outcomes such as DVT, even if your open-heart surgery occurred several weeks or even months before your regular flight.


To continue, for passengers with cardiovascular disease, the potential disruption in taking daily medications is another significant effect of changes in sleep patterns. It can be difficult to stick to your normal meds routine when it is disrupted, especially if you are unsure of the time. Passengers with stable heart failure, angina, or arrhythmia should take their medications on a regular basis to avoid serious complications, like heart attacks and premature death from heart disease.

Furthermore, if you had a strong aversion to flying prior to your own cardiac event, it may feel even worse now. Anxiety has real side effects on heart patients, including increased heart rate (tachycardia). This can interfere with normal heart functions and heighten the risk of sudden cardiac arrest or failure in severe cases.

Consider chartering an ambulance jet for your medical repatriation to the UK or for your next international trip, whether for pleasure, business, or medical treatment, to maximize your chances of flying safely.

What are the benefits of our medical flights for patients who have undergone open-heart surgery?

As previously stated, there is a critical period following surgery when you are more likely to experience post-surgical complications. You should only fly if absolutely necessary and with the approval of your doctor. In any case, an air ambulance should be your preferred option.

Contact us right away to arrange for a quick and safe long-distance medical flight after your open-heart surgery. Our ambulance jets are equipped with cutting-edge medical technology. They are distinguished by three primary advantages: medical equipment, trained medical personnel, and specialized medications. Flying in an ambulance jet has the added benefit of allowing cabin pressure to be adjusted to avoid the aforementioned issues.

Our medical flight services offer comprehensive care to open-heart surgery patients, those with cardiac problems, or those who require special care during the flight, such as adequate blood circulation and continuous ventilation. Indeed, our medical planes are equipped with cutting-edge medical technology that can include IV supplies, a cardiac monitor, and intubation equipment. A dedicated intensive care team is available to handle medical emergencies such as a stroke and cardiac arrests caused by atrial fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia. Our paramedics and specialist doctors are also capable of performing defibrillation and managing medication.

ambulance jet

Why should Medical Repatriation UK be the first choice for open-heart surgery patients?

Equipped with the necessary medical equipment to keep the situation under control until arrival at the destination hospital for further treatment, our ambulance jets are ideal for providing the necessary medical support for open-heart surgery patients. Furthermore:

  • We offer a 24-hour service every day of the week, including holidays. We create custom packages for each flight.
  • We offer a variety of air ambulance options. Whether it is medical escorts on a commercial airliner or an ambulance jet,
  • We have decades of experience in medical repatriation.
  • We work onevery continent, including Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America.
  • All of our aircraft are outfitted with cutting-edge medical technology.
  • We believe in providing high-quality service.
  • We provide reasonable and market-competitive rates.
  • We follow ISO 9001 standards.

Include our bed-to-bed service as part of your medical flight.

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