dvt

Two doctors weigh in on getting a DVT while on the airplane.

Perhaps you’ve heard of cases in which a person seemingly developed a DVT at some point after landing from air travel.

There are cases in which the patient becomes aware of leg pain and swelling while in a hotel or shortly after arriving back home.

“Yes, you can develop DVT during air travel, or any travel for that matter that requires long periods of immobility,” says Paul Lucas, MD, a surgeon with the Vascular Center and director of the Vascular Laboratory at Mercy Hospital in Baltimore.

DVT Risk Factors Aboard a Plane

“The risk increases with the length of flight,” says Steven Elias, MD, director of the Center for Vein Disease at Columbia University Medical Center.

A very long trip in an airplane will encourage sleeping — which means very inert legs in a cramped space, unable to move about as they normally would when a person sleeps in a bed.

Dr. Elias adds, “The nature of air travel: immobility and dehydration secondary to cabin air low humidity add to the risk. DVT risk goes up significantly in flights longer than four to six hours.”

What is the shortest amount of time between takeoff of the airplane and development of a deep vein thrombosis?

Dr. Lucas explains, “As far as the shortest amount of time to develop a DVT on the flight, that’s hard to pin down, and the reality is, it could be at any moment, but increased with the longer periods of immobility.

“Keep in mind though, the incidence of in-flight DVT is pretty low overall.”

Tips for avoiding a deep vein thrombosis while flying: stay hydrated, avoid liquor, get up every hour — no longer — and walk up and down the aisle; while seated regularly flex your feet up and down, which will stimulate blood flow in the calves.

Dr. Lucas leads a team of vascular surgeons and technologists who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of patients with diseased blood vessels.
Dr. Elias is a leading name in venous disease, minimally invasive vein disease therapy and clinical vein and wound research. Dr. Elias lectures about all aspects of venous disease nationally and internationally.