Travel-Related Deep Vein Thrombosis

A possible link between deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and long haul air travel was first suggested by reports in medical journals in the 1950s. These early reports of DVT and the evidence about the causes of DVT in general pointed to immobility as the common underlying risk factor.

DVT may be associated with any form of long distance travel whether by air, car, coach or train.

Flights lasting longer than five hours, where passengers remain immobile in the seated position for long periods of time, may be associated with an increased risk. A recent survey (telecast on Discovery Channel) declared one out of ten passengers is prone to develop deep vein thrombosis.

All air passengers, even those at greatest risk can reduce the chances of getting DVT by doing the simple exercises to keep the circulation active.

DVT is a serious condition where blood clots develop in the deep veins of the legs. It must be distinguished from blood clots in superficial varicose veins in the legs, called phlebitis, which is much less serious.

One in every hundred people who develop DVT dies. The cause of death is usually a blood clot, traveling from the legs to the lungs. This is called pulmonary embolus or PE. When PE is severe it causes the lungs to collapse and heart failure.

Remember while traveling:

– be comfortable in your seat
– bending and straightening your legs, feet and toes while seated every half-hour or so during the flight is advised
– pressing the balls of your feet down hard against the floor or foot-rest will also help increase the blood flow in your legs and reduce clotting
– upper body and breathing exercises can further improve circulation
– take occasional short walks, when in-flight advice suggests this is safe
– take advantage of refueling stopovers where it may be possible to get off the plane and walk about
– drink plenty of water
– be sensible about alcohol, which in excess leads to dehydration and immobility
– avoid taking sleeping pills, which also cause immobility.

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