One of the commonest questions I am asked is “When can I fly after vein treatments?” Well I am going to tell you what I advise.
The most feared complication after any surgical treatment which is followed by a flight shortly afterwards – particularly a long haul flight – is Deep vein thrombosis – often abbreviated to DVT. DVT is a clot in the deep veins of the legs that can break free and travel to the lungs. The medical term for clots lodging in the lungs is pulmonary embolism. If the clot is large, pulmonary embolism can be fatal.
The reason clots may form after a long haul flight is that with prolonged sitting, particularly in cramped spaces, blood flows much more slowly in the deep veins than when you are up and about and moving around and slowly flowing blood tends to clot. In fact when you are perfectly still, there is very little flow at all in the deep veins. It is only when your muscles contract, squeezing the deep veins that blood is pushed back to the heart. Now imagine a situation in which you are rendered unconscious and motionless under general anaesthesia. If you have a general anaesthetic lasting for more than 1 hour, there is very slow blood flow in the deep veins and the risk of DVT is relatively high. Combine that with a long haul flight shortly afterwards and you can see that the risk of DVT and pulmonary embolism is even higher.
Modern vein treatments such as endovenous laser, radiofrequency ablation – VNUS Closure- and superglue (VenaSeal) can be performed under local anaesthetic as a walk in walk out procedure. During the procedure I actually encourage movement and the flow of the blood in the deep veins is maintained so the risk of DVT is very low.
Does that mean it is safe to take a long haul flight the next day? In most cases probably the answer is probably yes and the risk is probably very low. However the truth is we just don’t know so it is wise to plan your vein treatment so as to avoid a long haul flight for about a month after treatment. On the flip side, I usually advise avoiding vein treatment within 2 weeks of getting off a long haul flight. There is nothing in the medical literature to back this up, but I think it is sensible and I prefer to be “safe” rather than “sorry”.
Contact me today for a confidential chat
If you’re worried about your veins and would like a confidential chat please do get in touch. I am happy to offer simple advice by telephone or email for free and without obligation.
The VeinCare Centre also offers a screening assessment with our vascular technologist. For £25 you can have a scan with Wendy Parsons. She is not a doctor and so she could not give you medical advice but she can check your deep veins and your varicose veins and give you an idea of how bad they are and whether laser might be suitable for you. If you would like to have an appointment with Wendy please call 01935 873 951.