Hip Replacement and Airplane Travel
A hip replacement won't prevent you from traveling by air, but it may make the journey uncomfortable. Pressure changes and immobility may cause the joint to swell, especially if it is still healing. Checking with your doctor before your first post-surgery plane ride is always a good idea, along with a few other considerations.
Doctors advise patients not to travel by air for at least six weeks after undergoing hip replacement surgery; for some patients, this type of travel may be uncomfortable for several months after surgery. Sitting on a plane for long periods of time exacerbates the tightness and discomfort present in the hip while it heals.
Prior to traveling by plane, make an appointment with your general practitioner to discuss your concerns. Your doctor may recommend an anti-DVT (deep vein thrombosis) shot to reduce your discomfort during the flight. He may also recommend stretches to do during the flight.
Some patients recovering from hip-replacement surgery find it helpful to take two aspirin before boarding the plane. Aspirin reduces inflammation or swelling—your hip joint might start to swell from lack of movement—and relieves minor discomfort.
Inform airport security of your hip replacement, especially if you have an aluminum or metal joint that will set off the metal detector. You’ll be able to go through a separate detector, or an attendant will scan your body using a hand-held device.
On the Plane
Get up every 15 to 30 minutes to walk around the plane. This helps the hip joint stretch out and loosen up, which reduces the risk of it swelling enough to cause pain. Do some seated stretches throughout the flight, too.
If you can afford it, flying business or first class is wise, as you'll have much more room to stretch out. If you can't afford a pricier ticket, choose a seat in the bulkhead (the rows directly behind partitions that separate different classes or the galley from the passenger area). These seats often have more legroom, though plane designs vary, so you should check with the airline.