Deaths From DVT Related to Air Travel
100,000 deaths due to air travel related DVT occur in the U.S. every year.11
DVT Risks for Travelers
When traveling (flying or driving) you are sitting immobile for extended periods of time with limited legroom. Thus increases your risk of developing DVT because the blood flow in the legs is restricted and slows down. This makes your blood more likely to clot. And for the next few weeks following, your blood clot risk stays higher than normal. Even if you are healthy and have a low risk of blood clots, a long flight or road trip raises your risk of DVT.
More than 300 million people travel on long-haul flights each year. An association between VTE and air travel was first reported in the early 1950s, and since then, long-haul air travel has become more common, leading to increased concerns about travel-related VTE.12
The longer you are immobile, the greater your risk of developing a blood clots. If you are at moderate or high risk for DVT you should take preventative measures while traveling. If you are traveling more than four hours, whether by air, car, bus, or train, you can be at risk for blood clots even without prior conditions.
There is evidence that immobility while flying is a risk for VTE and indirect evidence that maintaining mobility may prevent VTE. Compared with aisle seats, window seats in one study were reported to increase the risk 2-fold, particularly in obese passengers, who had a 6-fold increase in risk. Aisle seats are reported to have a protective effect, compared with window or middle seats, probably because passengers are freer to move around.12
Typical signs or symptoms of DVT include pain or tenderness, swelling, increased warmth in the affected area, and redness or discoloration of the overlying skin. The most common signs or symptoms of acute PE include unexplained shortness of breath, pleuritic chest pain, cough or hemoptysis, and syncope. If you experience any of these symptoms you should contact your healthcare provided.
It is always good to take preventative measures especially before traveling long distances if you may be at risk to DVT.