International Society For Minimally Invasive Cardiothoracic Surgery

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Can Patients Travel By Air Less Than One Week After Thoracic Surgery
Peter Baik, DO1, Alex Foley1, Tara Karamlou, MD2.
1Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Tulsa, OK, USA, 2Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, OH, USA.

Background Current British Thoracic Society guidelines recommend waiting at least seven days following uncomplicated thoracic surgeries with full re-expansion of the lung prior to traveling on commercial airliners. Most commercial airplanes are pressurized to about 8000 feet, which expands the air in human body by about 25%. However, patients planning to fly back home after having thoracic surgical procedures incur important financial and economic burden awaiting medical clearance to fly. The purpose of this study is to review our experience with thoracic surgical patients who traveled back home by air. Methods We performed a retrospective review of patients that flew home after robotic-assisted lung resections at two affiliated hospitals. Charts were reviewed for age, gender, types of surgery, the number of days with chest tubes, number of days between surgery and flight home and number of days between chest tube removal and flight home. The patients were contacted by telephone to determine whether they experienced shortness of breath, chest pain, wound drainage or evaluation by health care provider during and after the flight. Results Thirty-two patients were identified that met inclusion criteria. Median age was 55.5 years (range 25-70 years) with 66% females. All 32 patients (100%) underwent robotic assisted lung wedge or anatomic resections. Median number of days between surgical procedure and flight home was 4 days (range 2-18 days). Median number of days between chest tube removal and flight home was 2 days (range 0-15 days). Only one patient had persistent drainage from her chest tube site and required readmission due to chylothorax. Conclusions After uneventful robotic-assisted lung resection, patients do not need to wait 7 days prior to flying home. In carefully selected patients, early flight home after robotic-assisted thoracic surgery is safe.

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