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The effect of Economy Class Syndrome also known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or venous thromboembolism and subsequent pulmonary embolism (PE) can be all too real and can turn deadly before one even realizes the potential seriousness of the situation.

According to government medical statistics in the USA alone between 100,000 to 180,000 deaths each year are caused by blood clots in the deeper veins and the resulting complications.

 

 

The Term “Economy Class Syndrome” is Both a Myth and a Fact and We Can Tell You Why. 

ECS or Economy Class Syndrome is a myth because the term was coined based on the somewhat misleading conclusion that flying and sitting in the cramped seating arrangements of coach class can cause blood clots in the leg veins.

This can happen if passengers remain in a seated position for long hours without getting up and moving around.  Such prolonged immobility causes the blood flow in the legs to slow considerably thereby increasing the risk of clotting.

Travelers with preexisting venous issues such as a prior deep vein thrombosis, chronic venous insufficiency or defective valves in the leg veins should be particularly cautious and talk to their physician concerning protective measures before they embark on long distance travel.

There is in fact no evidence to suggest that the risk of blood clots or deep vein thrombosis during or after long distance travel is limited to coach class passengers.  The truth is that any type of long distance travels whether by plane, train, bus or automobile carries a potential risk of DVT if you are not taking recommended precautions to minimize the danger.

 

Why is the Occurrence of a DVT During or After Long Distance Flights so Dangerous?

The formation of a blood clot in the leg can be dangerous because the blood clot can detach itself from the wall of the vein and travel up to the heart, lungs or brain and cause a blockage preventing the normal exchange and oxygenation of blood.  Such a disruption in blood flow can lead to serious damage of living cells and major organs which may leave the patient severely disabled or cause death.

Part of the danger is the possibility that the formation of a blood clot may not be obvious or signaled by any characteristic symptoms such as severe swelling at the shins or thighs or strong pain extending along the saphenous veins.

Unfortunately deaths from blood clots as a result of long distance travel frequently also go unnoticed by the news unless they happen to celebrities or wealthy individuals that are more likely to boost the ratings with a headline.

 

According to reports of the NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information) deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism are significant medical problems of air travel and lead to nearly 20% of deaths in people who have no medical history.

Symptoms of deep vein thrombosis can at times be non-specific and hard to identify even to the point where they are never actually diagnosed.  This is especially the case with symptomless deep vein thrombosis on long distance flights, which was the subject of a study back in 2001.  This study was designed to determine the frequency of the occurrence of DVT in the legs during long distance air travel and the usefulness of compression stockings as a preventive measure.

The upshot of the study results was that blood clots in the deeper veins may occur in nearly 10% of long distance flight passengers and that wearing of graduated compression stockings is a factor for a reduction in the incidence of DVTs without any symptoms.

Ref.: The Lancet, Volume 357, Issue 9267 Volume 357, Issue 9267, Pages 1485 – 1489, 12 May 2001.

 

How Can You Protect Yourself Against Deep Vein Thrombosis During and After Long Trips?

Be knowledgeable and vigilant about your health status and if you are unsure about it do not hesitate to make an appointment with your physician before venturing on a long trip.

Know the risk factors … read our post titled Even Athletes Should wear Compression Stockings When Flying

Consider wearing graduated compression stockings or travel socks if you expect to be sitting motionless for long hours on a plane, train or even riding a car.

Educate yourself on this important subject.  We highly recommend reading all our posts on the subject of Economy Class Syndrome and DVT.

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