Traveling After Surgery

There are a lot of upsides to medical tourism, aside from lower costs. The lure of international travel, expert specialist care, and even access to procedures unavailable at home are some of the many benefits of having medical procedures done abroad. But it isn’t all Botox and beaches. Make Medical Trip is committed to giving patients realistic expectations for traveling for medical care.

Planning a medical procedure abroad can be an overwhelming task. So much so that many patients forget to plan ahead for traveling after surgery. Your doctor is the best source of advice for how long you should wait to travel and what kind of accommodation you might need. Here are a few tips to get you started:

Call the airline ahead of time

Airlines all have different guidelines for determining whether a patient is safe to fly, most publish them online. Calling the airline ahead of time and explaining your plans will help you avoid surprises on your return trip. If you are concerned whether or not you will meet the requirements, print out the guidelines and ask your doctor to look over them, possibly writing a letter saying you meet their guidelines. Some airlines might require a doctor to certify that a patient is stable enough to travel. If your return journey has layovers which change airlines you may need to obtain certificates for each individual airline. If a medical tourism facilitator booked your flight, you may want to ask the facilitator to look into it for you.

It’s important to note that the person with final say in whether or not anybody can fly is the Pilot In Command (PIC) or Captain, who is often just following guidelines from their airline. No matter what the situation is, if you are recovering from surgery you may not be able to sit in the Emergency Exit row.

Keep your medication with you

Most patients will have some type of medication they need to take on a regular basis after their procedure. Make sure you have them with you, along with anything you need to take it with. Also, make sure to check the legal requirements to transport your medications and that you have all of the necessary documents, including a note from the prescribing doctor explaining why you need the medication.

If you need to inject medications, carry a separate note explaining that you need to carry syringes on the flight and what they are for. Cabin crews will not be able to administer the injection for you, but you should alert the airline ahead of time so they can provide a sharps disposal container. Those traveling with medical devices or oxygen tanks should contact the airline(s) for guidance.

Stay comfortable

Safety concerns aside for a second, there is little more important to recovering patients than comfort. Long-haul flights are uncomfortable in the best circumstances. Patients recovering from surgery might need to sit in certain positions or find other ways to stay reasonably comfy. Be sure to ask your doctor if there are any products, such as seat cushions, pillows, or compression garments that you can use to help make your trip a bit more comfortable. American patients should note that doctors overseas sometimes don’t prescribe the painkillers they might be used to.

Traveling can be stressful

It’s also important to consider your ability to navigate airports, handle changing flights, carry luggage, and deal with the unexpected while traveling. It might be worth considering extending your trip if you need extra time to ensure you can mentally or emotionally handle traveling. If you are traveling with a companion (as we highly recommend you do) they will be able to help but ensure you have a plan in case you are separated. At the very least make sure your companion isn’t carrying your travel documents for you. You might be worried about misplacing them, but if you get into trouble having those documents makes all the difference.

Other considerations about flying

The air pressure in planes is lower than what many patients are accustomed to. Lower cabin pressure can also cause gas expansion, which is a hazard with certain types of surgery and something surgical patients should definitely discuss with their doctor. Airplanes also have very low humidity (let’s be honest, they’re drier than some deserts), which can irritate skin or eyes that are sensitive from some procedures.

All travelers sitting for long periods of time in-transit are at increased risk for developing Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). DVT’s are blood clots that form in the veins of the legs and thighs as a result of inactivity. Patients recovering from surgery might be at a higher risk, but it’s worth noting that DVT’s are rare even for travelers at high risk. To help reduce the risk of DVT’s patients can get up and move around the cabin every 3 to 4 hours and stay hydrated by drinking water and avoiding caffeine or alcohol, so skip the airplane bar or Starbucks before flying to decrease your risk.

Expect the unexpected

Experienced travelers know that emergencies sometimes happens on the road or in the air. For patients, what is merely inconvenient for normal travelers can become a nightmare. Make sure you have plans in place if any of your flights are delayed or canceled, including extra money for accommodations and enough medication if you need to spend an extra day traveling.

Patients while traveling might have a lot on their mind (or might be loopy from medication) and so might be an easy target for pickpockets or scammers. Be sure to research your destination and anywhere else you might be visiting and take steps to minimize your risk of being victimized by criminals. If you’re traveling with a companion and medicated, ask them to help you keep an eye on your things.

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The Average Cost of Treatment Abroad

These estimates are merely the average cost of the medical procedure in your desired country, and may be higher or lower depending on the healthcare provider. This estimate also does not included things like flights, hotel, transportation, food or anything outside of the medical treatment. Each healthcare organization has their own unique cost for medical care.

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