Air Travel and the Prevention of VTE

Air travel is often the preferred method of transportation for individuals seeking to cover great distances in the shortest amount of time. However, prolonged air travel can cause passengers to develop a dangerous condition known as venous thromboembolism, or VTE.

VTE includes the conditions, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which are blood clots that form in the lower limbs, as well as pulmonary embolism (PE), which is a sudden blockage of the pulmonary artery due to a blood clot that has traveled to the lung from a leg DVT.

While the occurrence of VTE is rare for flights lasting less than six hours, the odds steadily increase as travel time increases. Moreover, the risk for VTE also increases with the presence of underlying conditions such as, a medical history of deep vein thrombosis, pregnancy, estrogen use, malignancy, advanced age, obesity, immobility, recent major surgery, congestive heart failure and other thrombophilic disorders.

Here are some general tips for all travelers to consider for the prevention of VTE:

1) Be sure to drink plenty of liquids. Stay hydrated.

2) Do not wear constrictive clothing, especially from the waist down, when traveling.

3) Take time to get up and walk around during the flight, at least every two hours.

4) Routinely flex and extend your feet and your knees while sitting in your seat.

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