Travel Thrombosis - Flight Thrombosis

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Travel Thrombosis - Flight Thrombosis
Travel Thrombosis - Flight Thrombosis

Video: Travel Thrombosis - Flight Thrombosis

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Video: Prevent DVT On Long Flights | Exercises To Prevent DVT | DVT Flight Socks | Reduce DVT Risk (2018) 2023, January

Risk of thrombosis when traveling by air

Especially on long-haul flights, the risk of blood clots forming in the circulatory system (thrombosis) increases. A thrombosis can occur in veins or arteries and leads to the occlusion of the respective vessel. The deep veins in the legs are most commonly affected.

Thrombosis causes different symptoms. The most feared complication is a pulmonary embolism: The clot detaches itself from its place of origin, is carried on with the blood, gets through the heart to the lungs and there leads to a blockage of a vessel.


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What are risk factors for thrombosis?

The development of a thrombosis on a long-haul flight is usually promoted by a combination of several factors. These include the long-term lack of exercise, the sitting position with bent knees, dehydration that usually occurs slowly during the flight (due to the low humidity on board), insufficient fluid intake and a general lack of oxygen. Alcohol consumption and the use of sleeping pills and sedatives during the flight also have a negative effect.

There is a certain risk of thrombosis for all travelers on flights lasting several hours, even if they are completely healthy. The risk is increased by an age over 40 years, varicose veins, chronic venous insufficiency, obesity and heart failure, pregnancy, plaster casts, recent operations, current or previous blood clotting disorders and thromboses as well as cancer or other serious illnesses. The use of oral contraceptives (“pill”) may also have an adverse effect.

The risk of thrombosis is not only increased by air travel; Even prolonged sitting when traveling by car, bus or train can lead to the development of a thrombosis. The risk increases especially after a journey of around six hours.

How is a thrombosis noticeable?

With deep vein thrombosis, those affected often complain of pulling pain and a feeling of tension in the affected leg. The blood can no longer flow back sufficiently to the heart through the narrowed or blocked vein and accumulates in the foot and lower leg; this is typically expressed by overheating and swelling (edema), and the affected lower leg may also be hardened or reddish-blue in color. However, a thrombosis does not necessarily have to be accompanied by such typical symptoms; it often goes unnoticed.

Note A travel thrombosis can only become noticeable weeks after the end of the journey or after the flight!

It becomes particularly dangerous when the clot detaches itself from its place of origin and is carried on with the bloodstream. This is how it can get to the heart and lungs. Depending on the size of the clot, it gets stuck in a vessel with a larger or smaller diameter and leads to its closure; the result is a reduced blood flow to the following structures. In theory, any organ can be affected. If it is a supplying vessel to the lungs, gas exchange can no longer take place in the affected lung segment - acute shortness of breath is the result. One speaks of a pulmonary embolism or pulmonary embolism. It is an emergency that can be life threatening and needs immediate treatment. More on the topic: pulmonary embolism.

How can you prevent thrombosis?


There are some things you can do to reduce the risk of thrombosis when traveling by air.

People with existing risk factors: With moderate varicose veins, wear support stockings, compression class 2 is usually sufficient.

People at high risk: after consulting a doctor, possibly use a low molecular weight heparin (agent to inhibit blood clotting) for self-injection.

Regardless of their individual risk, all travelers should observe the following precautions during the flight:

  • drink enough (at least 0.25 liters every 2 hours, no alcohol!),
  • keep moving (getting up repeatedly, doing movement and relaxation exercises),
  • wear loose clothing that does not restrict blood flow,
  • do not take sedatives.

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