My fiancé wants to travel to live with me in Australia, but has been told flying is too dangerous. He was in a coma for a month after a car crash a year ago. He is on various medications to prevent seizures and blood coagulation, but walks, talks, and surfs in his spare time (against doctors’ orders). Is it safe to travel on a plane after a serious brain injury, or even a mild one for that matter?
Based on the information you provided, it is difficult to give you a specific answer as it relates to your fiancé traveling to live with you in Australia. In and of itself, TBI is not a contraindication to traveling by plane, particularly when the plane is adequately pressurized. That said, there are at least some physiological stress factors implicit in air travel. On rare occasions, people who have a lowered seizure threshold or who are on anti-epileptic drugs find that air travel can lower their seizure threshold causing them to seize. Therefore, it is important for your fiancé to discuss specific restrictions with his physician and know whether the plane he’ll be traveling on will be adequately pressurized. Ultimately, without knowing more, it’s difficult to offer specific suggestions.
For people who have had a mild TBI and unless there were extenuating circumstances, I would see no general reason for your fiancé to avoid flying, particularly in the post-acute phase.
My best recommendation is for your fiancé to talk with a physician who specializes in brain injury medicine who can review his specific circumstances relative to the safety of air travel. Safe flying!
Nathan Zasler, MD is CEO and medical director for Concussion Care Centre of Virginia, Ltd. as well as CEO and medical director for Tree of Life Services, Inc. He is board certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation and fellowship trained in brain injury.