Dr Sarah Jarvis, MBE
Author: Dr Sarah Jarvis, MBE, General Practitioner (GP)

Dr Sarah Jarvis is the Clinical Director of the Patient Platform, an active medical writer, broadcaster, and the resident doctor for BBC Radio 2.

7 min read

Can you fly with a broken or fractured bone?

If you’ve suffered a nasty injury that has resulted in a fractured or broken bone and are worried about your upcoming travel plans, you’ll be pleased to know that it is possible to fly with a broken bone.

However, before travelling, you’ll need confirmation that your healthcare professional says it's safe and consult your chosen airline. Your doctor or physio and your airline might offer advice or guidance about travelling that will need to be considered before departing and might mean you cannot take the trip you’ve planned.

We’d recommend that the first step you take when considering travel plans after a fracture or break is to consult your healthcare professional for their advice. Then, once you’ve done this, you’ll be able to contact your airline and travel provider to determine whether the trip is still possible.

PLEASE NOTE: For all intents and purposes, the terms 'fractured bone' and 'broken bone' are interchangeable. That means the same rules apply whether you've been told you have a broken or fractured bone.

How long does a broken bone take to heal?

When considering travelling with a broken bone, one thing to be aware of is what stage of the healing journey you’ll be at when your trip comes around. 

Some minor fractures can repair within three weeks with the proper treatment. However, most severe breaks can take more than ten weeks to recover. It depends entirely on the person and the nature of the injury itself.

If you’ve only recently sustained the injury but have a holiday booked, it’s worth finding out when you will fully recover. This is something your healthcare professional will be able to advise you on.

It's also worth bearing in mind that even after your bone has healed, you may still be left with muscle weakness or pain. It’s difficult for a physiotherapist to predict a recovery date accurately, but they can give you a rough idea. This will help you plan and adapt your routines to cater for your travel arrangements in good time.

How long does swelling last after a broken bone?

When it comes to air travel, swelling is far from ideal. As well as cabin pressure, sitting down for an extended period of time can cause swelling in the leg and around the ankles and feet. In most cases, this is fairly normal for most people – and shouldn’t be a concern.

However, after an initial bone fracture, the body responds with swelling around the break itself. This is most marked in the first week or two after an injury.

Can you fly with a cast?

Whether you can fly with a plaster cast will depend on your travel operator and where the cast is located.

If you break a bone while you're on holiday or immediately before, your airline may require you to wait for at least 24 hours (48 hours for longer flights) before you fly. This is due to the risk of swelling after a plaster cast has been fitted, which can affect your circulation.

Sitting still for prolonged periods on a flight already slightly increases your risk of a potentially dangerous clot on the leg, called a DVT. If you have a newly fitted leg plaster cast and get swelling, this risk can increase further. Another condition that you might also be at risk from when flying with a cast is compartment syndrome, which occurs due to increase pressure on the area the plaster cast covers.

READ MORE: Can I fly again after Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)?

Instead of travelling with a plaster cast, your doctor may recommend splitting your cast. This will relieve pressure and reduce the risk of complications. If you get your cast split, you’ll likely need to replace it when you arrive on holiday and might need it split again before your return flight.

Flying with a broken leg in plaster

It will depend on your cast and the accommodation you’ll need as to whether you can fly with a broken ankle or leg.

If you have a below-knee plaster and can bend your knee, you'll be able to sit in a normal seat. However, if your cast covers your knee, you'll need special seating arrangements. This may involve purchasing an extra seat from the airline and will likely mean you cannot sit near the emergency exits.

If you need to bring crutches on the plane for support during your trip, you’ll need to let the airline or tour operator know. It’s likely that they’ll be stored in the hold with all other luggage whilst flying. This is something you should confirm with your airline.

If you need a wheelchair, you should inform your airline as soon as possible. They can arrange a wheelchair at both ends, and there's usually no charge for this.

Green Broken Leg

Flying with a broken arm in a cast

Generally, if you can remain comfortably seated and your seatbelt can be applied, as usual, flying with a broken arm in a cast shouldn’t be a problem.

However, don’t worry about asking for special assistance. The airline may be able to give you a seat with seats next to it to ensure you’re as comfortable as possible for the duration of the flight.

This isn’t always guaranteed as a standard service, but if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Broken Wrist

Flying with a broken neck or spine

A broken neck or spine is often a very severe injury and makes it very unlikely that you can fly. You’ll need to discuss it at length with your doctor, and not only consider whether you can travel, but whether you’ll get the same enjoyment out of your trip if you do.

If your doctor does deem you can fly, you’ll still need to contact the airline to ensure you can travel with them based on their internal policies.

Travel insurance for a broken bone

Fractured and broken bones aren’t usually covered in a standard travel insurance policy. So, to ensure you’re fully covered, you’ll need to purchase a specialist travel insurance policy.

With Medical Travel Compared, you can access travel insurance for people with medical conditions in no time. We work with a variety of reputable providers so that you can always get the best price and coverage for your needs.

All you need to do is start our quick and easy application form today and find a specialist policy to suit you.

Get a quote
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