Will Flying on a Plane Immediately After Eyelid Surgery Affect Healing?

I booked a flight for home immediately--about 2-3 hours after my eyelid surgery. I'm flying from Southern California (where my surgeon is) back home to San Francisco.

Now I'm concerned that flying on a plane at high altitudes can have some kind of effect on the start of my healing process. I will be following the post-op healing instructions once I get home, but I am especially concerned since I am undergoing eyelid surgery and being in an aircraft tends to dry out eyes.

Doctor Answers (20)

Flying 2-3 hours after eyelid surgery is a very bad idea

+2

It is a very bad idea to fly on an airplane two to three hours after any eyelid surgery for fear of bleeding or complications that can occur in the immediate postoperative phase since your surgeon will be unavailable. It is best to stay within a half an hour of the surgery center where the surgery is being performed for five to six days after the surgery and have at least one postoperative visit with your surgeon prior to flying home.


Seattle Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 55 reviews

Do not fly after surgery

+2

Hi,

Thank you for your question.

Flying probably has no effect on healing. Planes are pressurized so that the pressure in the cabin is close to that on the ground. If this didn't happen we'd all get the bends. However, I would not recommend it so soon after surgery.

More importantly, you should be worried about how soon you are leaving.The most dangerous complication of eyelid surgery is a hematoma.

Its best to stay over night in your surgeon's city.You can leave once he/she gives you the okay. Your eye sight isn't worth the risk.

Best regards,

Dr. Speron

Sam Speron, MD
Chicago Plastic Surgeon

Flying After Eyelid Surgery

+2

Flying will have no effect on healing. Planes are pressurized so that at altitude the pressure in the cabin is close to that on the ground. If this didn't happen we'd all get the bends.

I'm less worried about healing then I am about the closeness of the flight time. The most dangerous complication of eyelid surgery is a retrobulbar hematoma. This can occur when bleeding from the fat excision gets around and behind the globe. If this happens it is a surgical emergency requiring immediate surgical intervention to prevent inevitable blindness. It can take a few hours for the amount of blood to build up to the point of danger.

If you're on the plane and this happens you run a huge risk of blindness because by the time you can get to a hospital and they get a surgeon to see you and he gets you into the operating room it will be too late-you'll be blind.

Don't be foolish. Stay over night in your surgeon's city. Once he has given you the okay to fly then go home. Your eye sight isn't worth the risk.

Christopher L. Hess, MD
Fairfax Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 16 reviews

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Flying 3 hours After Surgery Not Advisable

+2

Leaving on a plane several hours after surgery is a really bad idea. As was previously mentioned, cabin pressure after surgery is not the issue. The issue is that there would be no ability for the surgeon to see you in the event of a problem. Unfortunately, situations such as this tend to invoke Murphy's law. Don't tempt fate if you don't have to.

Stephen Prendiville, MD
Fort Myers Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 32 reviews

Post-op Flight

+2

If you're just having upper lid skin removed under local, the flight will not change your wound healing in any way. If you're having a real anesthetic (anything from IV sedation to general anesthesia) then flight immediately afterwards is a terrible idea and you shouldn't follow through with it. Make sure your board certified plastic surgeon knows what you've got in mind.

Best Wishes.

Ricardo A. Meade, MD
Dallas Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 49 reviews

Airplane travel right after eyelid surgery can cause problems

+2

It's not a good idea to fly home 2 - 3 hours after eyelid surgery for a few reasons. First, it is important to rest after eyelid surgery. Any activity (including walking) increases blood flow to your eyes and raises the risk of bruising and swelling. Carrying a suitcase raises the risk even further. You should be resting with your head elevated and with cold compresses on your eyes for the first 24 hours.

In addition, with any eyelid surgery, there is a very small chance of bleeding behind the eyes that could cause vision loss. This is reversible if addressed right away. If that were to happen on an airplane, there is little chance that there would be a doctor on your flight who would know what to do.

When you have surgery on your eyelids, ointment is placed in your eyes immediately afterwards to protect your eyes from getting too dry. This ointment will blur your vision and make it difficult to see clearly. This would make traveling more complicated.

And finally, surgery schedules are not adhered to precisely. You could easily have surgery an hour later than you expect. You may need to stay in the recovery room longer than expected. If you are delayed, you could miss your flight or need to rush to make it. This kind of stress will increase your chance of complications.

It's a good thing that you are thinking about this beforehand and doing your homework. I think of surgery as a "team sport." Your doctor is the quarterback, and you must be a good receiver. Good luck with your surgery.

Nancy Swartz, MD
Philadelphia Oculoplastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 5 reviews

Flying After Eyelid Surgery

+1

I do not recommend flying immediately after surgery. I would wait at least 3-5 days until all sutures are out as this may cause significant swelling.

Rod J. Rohrich, MD
Dallas Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 15 reviews

Travel & flying immediately after any surgery

+1

Eyelid surgery can have a low but significant risk of bleeding after the surgery, especially if you are up and about immediately afterwords. Increases in heart rate cause corresponding increases in blood pressure which increase the risk of bleeding & complications.

All injuries, including surgical injuries, increase the clotting factors in the blood for the next 30 days, and thereby, sitting for lengthy periods can put you at greater risk for blood clots in the legs.

I am also impressed just how difficult the idea of convalescence can be to people today. Consider that treating yourself to surgery may include treating yourself to the recovery as well.

 

Edward Szachowicz, MD, PhD
Minneapolis Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 13 reviews

Airplane Travel After Eyelid Surgery

+1

Although eyelid surgery is generally extremely safe with a quick recovery period, it is always better to be safe than sorry. Leaving town on a plane, even if it is 2-3 hours after surgery, does not mean that something could not happen. Even though airplane cabins are pressurized, you can sometimes see increases in swelling with air travel. One other logistical concern is that if you develop a problem after you have returned home, it may be difficult to find a physician to take care of you and the last thing that you or your surgeon would want is for you to take a trip to your local Emergency Room. For my out-of-town patients, I recommend that they stay at least the first night in town, although I prefer the first week, just in case.

Gregory J. Vipond, MD, FRCSC
Inland Empire Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 5 reviews

Flying is a bad idea

+1

There are several reasons why flying immediately after surgery is a bad idea

1. If you sustain a bleed behind your eye, which the risk is highest in the first 24-48 hours after surgery, you will be in flight on a plane. There is a risk with a bleed of losing permanent vision. It is a huge risk to take.

2. On the flight there is a lot of  getting up and down, moving around, lifting baggage if needed..all bad things after eye surgery. These in itself increase the risk of a bleed post eye surgery

3. If a stitch breaks you will be midflight and then what are you going to do? catch a flight immediately back when you get home? Call around for a surgeon to fix the broken stitch

All in all, you should be around for 24 hours minimum after eyelid surgery. I have out of town patients stay at a nice hotel next door to my office and have my cell phone if there is a problem in the middle of the night. After 24-48 hours they can fly home. Hope this helps.

Chris Thiagarajah, MD
Washington DC Oculoplastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 6 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.