episodes related to flight, such as deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary
embolism, are likely to increase over the coming decades with the expected
expansion of long range air travel. Although DVTs are often referred to
as the 'Economy Class Syndrome' they may also affect other passengers.
Long hours of relative immobility and possibly cramped seating may well
be precipitating factors
- Age: greater than
40 years (especially the elderly)
- Previous thrombotic
episode (especially pulmonary embolism)
- Documented thrombophilic
- Certain haematological
- Malignancy e.g.
- Congestive heart
- Recent surgery
(especially lower limbs)
- Chronic venous
- The pill or HRT
are also risk factors specific to air travel -
- Cramped position
- Dehydration due
to the excessive use of alcohol
- Compression of
popliteal vein by the edge of the seat
- Seated posture
(especially when sleeping)
- Tall and short
are several simple methods by which you can reduce the risk of a DVT
to keep your thighs clear of the edge of your seat. If travelling in
Business or First Class keep your feet up on the leg rests at the highest
elevation. Alternatively you can rest your feet on your hand luggage.
some exercise during the flight. This can be done by moving around the
aircraft cabin or by using a leg exerciser.
plenty of water to avoid dehydration. Avoid too much alcohol.
elastic flight socks or support stockings (this is particularly important
for passengers with varicose veins).
a low dose aspirin (100 - 150mg) the day before, during a long haul
flight and for three days after.
briskly for at least half an hour before take-off.
your GP if you think you are suffering from any medical condition that
might be affected by your flight. Patients at particular risk of a DVT
may be prescribed Low Molecular Weight Heparin.