Deep Vein Thrombosis and Air Travel

So I just came back from a trip and on the plane’s in-flight magazine, they had this huge article on deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and what it is and prevention. Unfortunately, I didn’t keep a copy of the issue, so here, I’ll provide general information and links.

What is DVT?

Air New Zealand has a good summary of DVT:

“Deep vein thrombosis or DVT is a condition in which a blood clot develops in one of the veins of the legs.

“This usually causes a painful swollen calf but in a few cases could cause more serious illness, or in rare, severe cases can be life-threatening.

“The perceived link with long distance flying is mainly due to issues of prolonged immobility – sitting in one position for a long time – which can slow down the blood circulation. DVT in itself is not a specific airline or economy class issue – and any situation of prolonged immobility could increase the chance of DVT.

“Also it is important to note that there are a number of individual factors which increase the likelihood of someone developing a DVT – whether or not they are flying. People most at risk are those who are:

  • Elderly
  • Overweight
  • Smokers

or have

  • had recent major surgery
  • had a DVT in the past or a family history of DVT
  • congenital blood clotting abnormalities
  • recent injury or surgery to the legs
  • a heart condition or a cancer, or
  • are pregnant or on oral contraceptives.”

If you get a clot in your leg, it can travel to your lung (which can cause a pulmonary embolism) or to your brain, which can cause a stroke.

Prevention in the airplane

The same Air New Zealand article says to move around! Drink more. If you have a risk factor, check with the doctor before flying. Your doctor might tell you to get some elastic support stockings to help squeeze blood back from your legs better.

Online Resources:





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