Don’t put off a needed surgery because of traveling

While we all tend to plan vacations for the summer time, it’s important to not let that interfere if you have need of surgery.

Nikki Sommer, a nurse with Key West Surgical Group, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5 FM for Medical Matters yesterday morning.

Sommer said, “I find in the summer time the excitement of travel, people will definitely try to put surgery their surgery off because they don’t want to have surgery before and they’re afraid there might be a problem while they’re on vacation so they want to wait until after. Sometimes hernias and gall bladders, they can become a problem if left unattended to.”

The problems won’t go away simply because there’s a vacation coming up.

It’s also important to speak to your doctor to see if travel plans could make an issue even worse. For instance, if you have a hernia, a seatbelt constraining that area could be a problem.

Sommer said, “The biggest thing with a hernia is the lifting of packing. Don’t have one big suitcase. I know with airlines that could be tricky because they charge you for extra bags, but try to use smaller, lighter either duffel bags or suitcases so you’re not lugging around one big suitcase and putting on a strain.”

An umbilical or inguinal hernia will become aggravated with a lot of lifting.  

Believe it or not, sneezing and coughing can also bother a hernia and if you go somewhere that has a high pollen count, you could find yourself sneezing and coughing more.

Gall bladder disease and travel can be quite problematic.

Sommer said, “I can’t tell you how many people have come down here on vacation and they know they have a gall bladder problem and they put it off and it becomes an emergency. Then a lot of times due to travel restrictions after surgery, you could get stuck somewhere depending on where you are.”

Gall bladder issues are often triggered by high-fat foods. Vacations are certainly the time to try different foods and that can be why gall bladder problems become an emergency.

In addition, flying can also cause issues.

Sommer said, “Cabin pressure decreases, but it can increase the pressure in your abdomen. So if you have some type of gastrointestinal issue, flying could make any type of pain worse. If you’re having any type of abdominal pain and you get on a plane, it could actually cause a problem.”

In fact, pilots are not allowed to fly if they have known gall bladder issues.

Sometimes it’s possible that people just don’t know they have a gall bladder issue.

Sommer explained, “There’s always a first for everything. They go on vacation, they live it up and then they come in with abdominal pain. They have a gall stone or two, it’s not obstructing the duct and they want to wait until they go home. They just recommend if you’re flying wait at least one day of being fully pain free.”

Keep in mind, if you have an incredibly severe attack, it could be recommended that you don’t fly for days.

Sommer said, “From a cost perspective, if you’re at the end of your trip, you could get stuck somewhere.”

So it’s really a good idea to have the surgery before you travel.

If you do wait to have the surgery and then travel, there are tips that can help.

Sommer said, “Make sure your doctor knows that you’re planning on travel. I know personally I’ve had talks with patients where they’ve had hernia surgery and they’ve gotten in a car and drove out of state the next day, which is not recommended.”

Following surgery, you can be at risk for a blood clot for weeks.

Sommer said, “So that makes travel a little complicated because flying or driving in a car, you could spend a long time just sitting, not being able to move your legs. That makes you at an increased risk for a blood clot.”

You should wait to fly about a week and a half after hernia surgery. All the motion involved in travel could aggravate the recovery.

Sommer said, “Traveling by car, you should still wait. I would say a week. If you’re traveling by car and it’s a long ride, get out, walk around, stretch your legs because you are at risk for a blood clot. The younger you are, the less at risk you are, but regardless, you should be aware to get out and move your legs.”

If you do travel after you’ve had surgery, make sure you know where the nearest hospital or emergency room is located.