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All About Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

DVT has gained notoriety recently with the public becoming more aware of it. Its actually been around for many years and was documented in medical journals back in the 1950s.

The public perception of DVT is in the majority of cases wrong in that it is not confined to long haul flights or even flying in general.

DVT is actually a blood clot in a vein - normally in the leg. It can cause swelling and there is a potential for death if a small piece breaks off and reaches the heart.

DVT is not restricted to travellers - despite the fact that public cases are centre on people who has flown. Anyone sat still or immobile for extended periods can get DVT. Long haul flights don't lend itself to the best environment to avoid DVT, but there is no reason to suggest that air travel increases the likelihood for DVT more than any other situation.

Symptoms of DVT in the leg

DVT normally affects one leg, and the symptoms may include:

  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Tenderness
  • redness at back of the leg, particulary behind the knee
Treatment for DVT

If a piece breaks off the clot and reaches the heart, it can lead to death. So treatment of DVT normally centres on the clot to stop this happening.

Anticoagulation drugs (such as warfarin) are often used to 'thin the blood' and prevent the DVT from getting larger. Although the blood doesn't actually thin, the drugs stop the blood from clotting as easily - and stopping clots from forming.

Compression stockings can also help to prevent damage to the tissue in the leg. These can also help to prevent or reduce swelling in the leg.

Raising your leg above the level of your hip can also help to reduce the pressure and stops blood from pooling in the bottom half of the leg.


If you think you are at risk from DVT (for example if you've just had surgery), contact your doctor before embarking on long haul travel. When travelling, and this can apply to both coaches or flights, we'd suggest the following:

  • make sure you are comfortable in your seat and every half hour or so, bend and straighten your legs, feet and toes. Press the balls of your feet hard against the floor which will stimulate blood flow to your legs and reduce the risk of clotting.
  • stretch your arms and upper body and breath deeply to improve your circulation.
  • at stop-overs, take advantage of the extra space and take a short walk
  • drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids - water is best
  • avoid sleeping pills which will cause immobility

If you do suspect you have DVT, see a doctor as soon as possible.

Also see: Wikipedia article on Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)