Case 1 – Can I fly after surgery?
Mrs B came to see Dr A in the middle of a busy on-call surgery. She said she wouldn’t take up much of his time, but that she needed him to complete a form. She had undergone an elective laparoscopic cholecystectomy five days ago in the local private hospital. She had booked a flight to France for the following day as she wanted to visit her sister and recuperate there.
Since she had undergone recent surgery, the airline insisted that she produce a medical travel clearance form. She asked Dr A to complete the form there and then as she had lots to organise before her flight tomorrow.
Dr A explained to her that he didn’t feel he had the expertise to comment on her fitness to fly. Mrs B became quite distressed and started to cry. Dr A arranged to see Mrs B at the start of his afternoon surgery, as he felt that he couldn’t fully address this issue within a busy on call morning.
Dr A didn’t feel he had the competency or experience to be able to assess Mrs B’s fitness to fly and was reluctant to complete a form to state that she was “fit to fly”.
When Mrs B returned, Dr A took a full history of the date and type of surgery and how she had been in the postoperative period. He noted the absence of any symptoms of complications. He examined her abdomen and was satisfied that she appeared to be making a good recovery after her procedure.
He issued her with a medical travel clearance form for ten days post op and she changed her flight and travel plans accordingly
He discussed with her whether or not she should actually be flying so soon after surgery, and whether or not she should ask for assistance at the airport with the walking distances involved. He advised her to discuss her recent surgery with her travel insurance company.
Dr A offered to write a factual letter for the airline, stating the date and type of surgery. However, she was adamant that she required a medical travel clearance form.
Dr A contacted her surgeon, Mr C, at the private hospital. He agreed to review the patient that evening and advise her on her travel arrangements.
Mr C was not happy with the patient travelling the following day. He advised her to wait a full ten days until after her abdominal surgery prior to flying. However he issued her with a medical travel clearance form for ten days post op and she changed her flight and travel plans accordingly.