In Flight Health- Deep Vein Thrombosis

what is DVT?

Deep Vein Thrombosis, or DVT, can be explained as a blood clot that forms in a vein deep in the body. Blood clots occur when the blood thickens and clumps together. DVT usually occurs in the lower leg or thigh, and this is one of the medical conditions that often happen on passenger on board in the aircraft, especially when you do not move a lot during the flight.

Embolism/ embolus occur. ( Image embedded from AdkPathCourse on 17th Sept, 2009])

why DVT occurs in aviation

DVT was referred as the “Economy Class Syndrome” because the economy class has less movements and leg room spaces than first class and business class; more percentage of passengers from economy class might experience DVT than passengers who travel in upper classes. However, there is no research have yet discovered a correlation between the class and the development of DVT. The House of Lords report recommends the use of the more appropriate term "traveler’s thrombosis".

Although, the World Health Organization published a study which confirms that the primary factor of DVT formation is caused by a long period of immobility, hence, high altitude and pressurized cabins have no impact. Long periods of immobility in other transportations such as trains can also carry similar risks.

However, DVT occurs more often to people who travel by air these days because travelling via air is more frequent than before. With more features on modern aircrafts, given greater travelling ranges to carry more passengers, as a result, a greater number of long-haul air journeys, therefore, the increase of the numbers occur during flight would be expected.

DVT does not only occur to passenger in flight, it also occurs to some pilots who are sitting in the cockpit for a period of time. therefore, everyone should have an adequate in-flight exercise habit to prevent DVT occurs.

A funny Video of In- flight Exercises by Lee Evans

(Video Embedded from Youtube on 17th Sept, 2009- see Lee Evans,20021))

InFlight Exercise Video

(Video embedded from YouTube on 23rd September, 2009- see YogoToday, undated- b2))

Recommendations in precenting DVT occurs:

During Travel
-Stand up and walk around at least hourly
-Exercise your calf muscles by going up on tiptoes several times while standing
-Drink adequate fluids - at least 1 liter per 5 hours of flight
-Avoid alcohol as it increases the stickiness of platelets and promotes fluid loss
-Avoid crossing legs or prolonged awkward hip or knee positions whenever seated
-Wear loose fitting clothing when traveling

1. Stop Smoking
2. Lose Weight
3. Discuss with your doctor family and personal history that might pre-dispose you to Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) and increase your risk during travel.
4. Discuss whether folic acid may be helpful you in preventing DVT.
5. Discuss whether therapeutic compression stocking, and/or an anticoagulant would be helpful to you in preventing DVT
6. The effectiveness of aspirin as a preventive measure for DVT is controversial
7. Elevate your legs when possible

1. Universal Picture (2002). Inflight Plane exercise. Retrieved from Youtube on 17th Sept, 2009
2. YOGATODAY (undated- b). InFlight Yoga. Retrieved from Yotube on 23 rd Sept,2009
3. Wikipedia (2009) Traveller's thrombosis. Retrieved from Wikipedia on 16th Sept, 2009

Want to know more?
An animation of how DVT formed
Air New Zealand Inflight Exercise guide
contains information on the top 10 inflight exercise movements.

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