Dr James Mclean - Orthopaedic Surgeon
Dr James Mclean - Orthopaedic Surgeon
Dr James Mclean - Orthopaedic Surgeon

Flying After Rotator Cuff Surgery

Recovery from rotator cuff surgery will restrict your ability to travel, especially for the first couple of weeks post-surgery.

Orthopaedic Surgeon Dr James McLean has provided these recommendations as a rough guide to flying after rotator cuff surgery. Please note that this guide is for reference only – Dr McLean will assess your recovery and advise on your individual situation and suitability for flying.

Types of rotator cuff surgery

The following techniques are used by Dr McLean to repair a rotator cuff tear:

  • Arthroscopic repair– A camera is inserted through a small incision that allows Dr McLean to view the inside of your shoulder on an attached monitor. Dr McLean can then repair tears by inserting other instruments through further button-hole sized incisions.
  • Open repair– Dr McLean makes a surgical incision, opens the shoulder, moves the deltoid out of the way, and repairs the tear. This method is used for larger or complex tears.
  • Mini-open repair– This method combines the previous two techniques. Damaged tissue or bone spurs are repaired or removed using arthroscopy (key holes) and then mini-open surgery is used to repair the rotator cuff.

Wherever possible, Dr McLean uses minimally-invasive techniques for faster recovery and minimal pain.

How soon can I fly after rotator cuff surgery?

Orthopaedic Surgeon Dr James McLean recommends waiting delaying flying for 2 weeks after rotator cuff surgery. However, flying does not directly impact your ability to fly and can be considered providing adequate supports have been set-up prior to your flight. There are a number of factors that may influence your ability to undertake a flight, including:

Airline regulations

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.


Your shoulder will be in a sling and should stressed minimally during your recovery period. The largest healing (with associated inflammation) occurs in the first 2 weeks following surgery and flying may exacerbate, or potentiate pain that could be avoided. Careful consideration should be given to choosing to fly within the first 2 weeks following a surgical procedure. The tight space of an airline seat (especially for long haul flights); and the need for pain medications, can influence your recovery experience.

Medical follow-up

Dr McLean will normally schedule a post-operative assessment 2 weeks after your surgery.

Pain medication

Dr McLean may prescribe pain medication post-surgery. To ensure a smooth travel process, it is a good idea to carry a copy of your prescription (and possibly a letter from your GP) detailing the medication you are taking. If you are travelling internationally, check with the local embassy of your intended destination for information on any medicinal restrictions or additional paperwork necessary to bring your medication into the country.

Travel insurance

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. Rotator cuff surgery recovery time The duration of your post-operative recovery differs for each person, depending on the type of surgery performed. For more information about rotator cuff surgery recovery, please visit this link.

How Dr McLean can help

To avoid disappointment, discuss your post-surgery restrictions and requirements with Dr McLean before booking your flights.

Further reading: Driving after rotator cuff surgery and rotator cuff surgery recovery times