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How to fly after a knee replacement

Updated August 13, 2017

Knee replacement surgery involves the removal of part of the femur (thigh bone) and tibia (shin bone) at the knee and replacing them with a prosthetic joint. This surgery is typically performed to relieve pain due to arthritis. Following surgery, there is a risk of developing a blood clot in the leg veins. This is of particular concern because the clot can become dislodged, travel to the lungs and cause death. There is an increased risk of developing a blood clot when flying due to decreased blood circulation. To reduce your chances of developing a blood clot after knee replacement, wait four to six weeks before flying.

Call the airline prior to your flight and make arrangements for a wheelchair to be available for you to use when travelling through the airport. This will save you time and energy.

Put on compression stockings before your flight. Compression stockings squeeze the leg muscles, which helps blood return to the heart and reduce the chances for developing a blood clot. Oedema or swelling that typically occurs in the lower legs after knee replacement surgery also will be decreased with compression.

Request a seat that provides additional leg room. Range of motion of the knee will be limited following surgery, and you may have a difficult time bending your knee far enough to position yourself comfortably.

Stand up and walk the aisle of the aeroplane at least once an hour. This will reduce post-operative stiffness in your knee joint and muscles. This also will reduce your chances of developing a blood clot, as blood circulation improves as the muscles contract.

Things You'll Need

  • Compression stockings
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About the Author

Aubrey Bailey has been writing health-related articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in ADVANCE for Physical Therapy & Rehab Medicine. She holds a Bachelor of Science in physical therapy and Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University at Buffalo, as well as a post-professional Doctor of Physical Therapy from Utica College. Dr. Bailey is also a certified hand therapist.