Written by Asha Sampath | 
Medically Reviewed by dr. reeja tharu, M.Phil.,Ph.D on Jun 20, 2014

Deep Venous Thrombosis (DVT) during Air Travel

Also known as "economy class syndrome," DVT is a risk factor in air travel. It is a type of venous thromboembolism (VTE), a process by which blood clots occur and travel through the veins. DVT affects blood circulation in the veins of the legs. A clot, formed in the larger veins (in the legs), either interferes with circulation or may break off, travel and lodge in any one of the major organs such as brain, heart, liver or lungs damaging it severely.

Sitting for long periods in a cramped position can predispose an individual to this condition. Symptoms include pain, tenderness and swelling. Preliminary results of a new research, released by WHO, state that the risk of developing VTE doubles after a travel period of four hours or more.

A clot from the veins of the leg can get displaced get into the circulationand get lodged in the lungs causing a life- threatening conditon called pulmonary thrombo-embolism.

Smokers, over-weight people and those taking contraceptive pills are also at risk. In such people, coagulability (blood clotting ability) is significantly altered making them more prone to blood clots.

Prevention includes bulkhead seating, wearing support stockings, periodic walks during the flight, isometric calf exercises and adequate hydration.

References:

  1. Medical Advice for Commercial Air Travelers - (http://www.aafp.org/afp/990901ap/801.html)
  2. Health and Travel Tips - (http://www.aircanada.com/en/travelinfo/onboard/healthtips.html)

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