Safety of air travel in the immediate postoperative period after anatomic pulmonary resection

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Abstract

Objective:

The study objective was to determine whether air travel in the immediate postoperative period after anatomic pulmonary resection is associated with increased morbidity or mortality.

Methods:

All patients undergoing anatomic pulmonary resection at the Mayo Clinic (2005-2012) were identified and sent surveys querying their mode of transportation home after hospital dismissal and any complications encountered during or shortly after this travel. This included pneumonia, hospital readmission, deep venous thrombosis/pulmonary embolism, and specific pleural complications (pneumothorax, empyema, or chest tube placement). We compared the results of patients returning home by conventional ground travel with the results of patients using air travel.

Results:

Surveys were sent to 1833 patients, and 817 responded (44.6% response rate). A total of 96 responders (11.8%) used air travel (median distance, 1783 km; range, 486-9684 km) compared with 278 km (range, 1-2618 km) for the 721 responders (88.2%) using ground travel (P < .0001). Male patients used air travel more than female patients (14.4% vs 9.3%; P = .02). Otherwise, no significant differences were observed between the 2 groups. The median duration of hospitalization was 5 days in both groups using air travel (range, 1-25 days) and ground travel (range, 1-42 days) (P = .83). There was no mortality due to postdismissal travel. The rates of major complication after hospital dismissal for those using air and ground travel were 8.3% and 7.8%, respectively (P = .87).

Conclusions:

Overall major complications are rare in the immediate posthospital dismissal period after lung resection. Air travel during this period was not associated with any significant increase in risk of complications when compared with conventional ground transportation and seems to be a safe option for patients after chest tube removal.

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