Editorial eMedinewS

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Can one fly again after having a DVT?

A. Yes, one can fly again though with some precautions.

The fact that one has developed deep vein thrombosis and/or a pulmonary embolism (PE) indicates that the blood has a tendency to clot under certain stressful conditions, such as sitting on an airplane for several hours. Having one episode of DVT or PE makes one high risk for another, even if air travel is avoided.

Without an anticoagulant, the risk of suffering a repeat DVT or PE is about 30–50% over the next 10 years. It is usually advised to take an anticoagulant indefinitely.

Prolonged sitting and dehydration create an environment inside veins that promotes clot formation. Both situations are common among airline passengers. Being confined to bed, having a leg in a cast, or other types of immobility also set the stage for a DVT or PE.

The following can be done to minimize the chances of developing a DVT or PE.

  1. Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water to make you get up and use the rest room several times. These walks provide opportunities to exercise the leg muscles.
  2. Avoid alcohol. Alcohol can dry you out. It can also make one drowsy.
  3. Move your muscles. Stand up and stretch your arms and legs at least once an hour. Walk up and down the aisle. Do simple exercises such as straightening your knee and stretching your leg, and pointing your toes up, then down while standing or sitting. Give more room to move by storing as little as possible under the seat in front of you.
  4. Consider compression stockings. Elastic support stockings keep blood flowing by gently squeezing the legs and moving blood back to the heart. This prevents the buildup of fluid around the ankles that ordinarily occurs during long–haul air travel.
  5. Consider low moleculay weight heparin prophylaxis (Source Harvard Newsletter)

Dr KK Aggarwal
Editor in Chief