Friday, December 19, 2003

Once more on DVT and planes

A new report in the Lancet suggests that as many as one percent of long-haul travellers may suffer symptomatic blood clots (deep-vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism) as a result of sitting still for long periods. The study appears to be quite a good one, with 1000 initial participants monitored. However, the figure seems remarkably high. Are all these people really getting ill just from being on a plane? Of the initial group, nine people were found to have these blood clots. Such a small absolute number means that the figures could be misleading. Moreover, how many of these cases would have resulted in no harm at all if undetected?

What is interesting about the study is the uselessness of preventative measures like aspirin and flight socks, and the fact that two of the nine people causing concern travelled exclusively in business class. Moreover, six of the nine had pre-existing clinical risk factors.

All of which suggests that travelling for long periods on planes contains a very small increased risk of a life-threatening blood clot - but sitting still anywhere for a long period of time would, too, and there's not a great deal you can do about it.

How about faster aircraft?

BBC NEWS | Health | One in 100 get travel blood clots


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