Air Travel following Traumatic Pneumothorax: When Is It Safe?

Cheatham, Michael L.; Safcsak, Karen
December 1999
American Surgeon;Dec1999, Vol. 65 Issue 12, p1160
Academic Journal
The safety of air travel for patients sustaining a recent traumatic pneumothorax has long been a subject of debate. The Aerospace Medicine Association has suggested that patients should be able to fly 2 to 3 weeks after radiographic resolution of their pneumothorax. To validate these recommendations, a prospective study was performed. Twelve consecutive patients with recent traumatic pneumothorax expressing a desire to travel by commercial airline were evaluated. Ten patients waited at least 14 days after radiographic resolution of their pneumothorax before air travel (mean, 17.5 +/- 4.9 days), and all were asymptomatic in-flight. One of two patients who flew earlier than 14 days developed respiratory distress in-flight, with symptoms suggestive of a recurrent pneumothorax. We conclude that commercial air travel appears to be safe 14 days following radiographic resolution of a traumatic pneumothorax.


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