Find out if sitting for prolonged periods on an airplane is worse than sitting for extended periods in a car or on your sofa for DVT risk.

Maybe you keep hearing about how prolonged sitting during air travel is a risk factor for developing a deep vein thrombosis.

In fact, major airlines, on their planes, provide pamphlets that even explain what to do to lower the risk of developing a DVT from a long flight.

But what about sitting virtually immobile in a deep comfy chair or sofa while watching hour after hour of movies or sitcom reruns, not even getting up to use the john?

Or sitting for extended periods, legs with limited space to move, in a motor vehicle?

Developing a DVT from extended air travel is called “economy class syndrome” because the economy seats don’t allow much room for leg movement.

This is a real concern, says Kevin Casey, MD, FACS, a vascular surgeon with West Coast Vascular.

“One study showed that the frequency of a PE [pulmonary embolus] was much greater in patients who traveled greater than 5,000 kms compared to those who traveled less than that,” continues Dr. Casey.

What about DVT from long car rides?

“The increased risk during air travel is probably not more than a similar population traveling in a car,” says Dr. Casey.  So why isn’t there a lot of media attention to long car travel or even movie marathons at home?

“It is either less discussed and/or less studied,” Dr. Casey says.  “But the same risk does apply during prolonged automobile travel and any other period of prolonged immobility.

“The World Health Organization has stated that such an association is likely to be small and mainly affects passengers with other risk factors for VTE [venous thromboembolism].”

In addition to prolonged immobility, DVT risks include:

Recent joint replacement, abdominal or heart surgery


Lack of regular exercise




Increased age

Birth control pills

Previous DVT

Clotting disorder

Dr. Casey specializes in vascular and vein therapy, and has been the lead researcher on publications examining abdominal aortic aneurysms, carotid artery disease and lower extremity critical limb ischemia.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  



Top image: ©Lorra Garrick