Flying After Carpal Tunnel Surgery
After your carpal tunnel surgery, it is normal to want to get back to your regular activities as soon as possible. However, the surgery may impact your ability to travel.
Orthopaedic Surgeon Dr James McLean has provided these recommendations as a rough guide to flying after carpal tunnel surgery. Please note that this guide is for reference only – speak to Dr McLean after your surgery to ensure your activities won’t impede your recovery.
Types of carpal tunnel surgery
The type of surgery you had may affect your post-surgery mobility and recovery time. There are 2 types of surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome:
In this method, a small cut (10mm) is made in the wrist, and a tiny camera is guided through a thin tube into the hand. This allows the Dr McLean to investigate the mechanics of the hand and cut the transverse carpal ligament with minimal scarring. This relieves the pressure on the median nerve to alleviate symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.
This involves a 30mm incision in the palm area, which allows Dr McLean to visualise the contents of the carpal tunnel as well as carefully cut the transverse carpal ligament. This relieves the pressure on the median nerve to alleviate symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome and allows visualisation and attention to any coexisting problems (such as ganglions or inflammation) at the same time.
The type of surgery you had may influence your recovery time. Each type has its merits and risks. Dr McLean can make a recommendation after consideration of all the factors relating to your condition.
How soon can I fly after carpal tunnel surgery?
Generally you will need to wait 24 hours after your surgery before flying. However, there are a number of factors to consider before booking your flight. Make sure you consider the following:
Each airline has its own regulations about flying after surgery. Make sure you enquire with them and have any necessary paperwork organised before your flight. See this page for more information about medical clearance for flying after surgery.
Especially if you are traveling alone, you won’t be able to carry bags and do some things you typically use your hands for. Transiting through the airport, managing tickets, and other simple activities may be more difficult.
You will need to see Dr McLean for a post-operative assessment and to get your stitches out 10-14 days after surgery.
Dr McLean will prescribe pain medication after your surgery. He may also recommend medication to reduce the risk of blood clots, or antibiotics to decrease the risk of infection.
It is a good idea to travel with a copy of your prescription and a letter from your doctor detailing the type of medication you are taking, and the reason for your prescription.
Your surgery may affect your travel insurance. Check your policy carefully, and contact your insurance provider for advice on whether you will be covered for potential post-surgery issues while you are away.
Returning to work
You need to discuss an adequate return to work plan with your employer. You should be able to return to light activities after 2 weeks; however you will not be able to place excessive stress on your hand/s or operate heavy machinery for up to six weeks.
For more advice about driving after carpal tunnel surgery, see this page.
How Dr McLean can help
Ask Dr McLean to clarify your restrictions and post-surgery needs before booking your flight.