Deep Vein Thrombosis
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is a condition which is also known
as "travellers' thrombosis" and "economy class syndrome".
It is not uncommon for adult passengers to develop swollen
ankles after a long distance flight. This swelling reduces
without any treatment after a few days. However, a more
serious complication of long distance travelling by air is a
thrombosis, or blood clot, which usually develops in a leg vein,
resulting in localised pain, tenderness, swelling and sometimes
a fever. This thrombosis is not life threatening unless a small
piece of the clot, called an embolus, breaks off and travels in
the blood stream to become lodged in a blood vessel, often the
pulmonary artery, blocking off the blood supply, thus causing
A study conducted at London Heathrow Airport has shown that
every fifth sudden death following a long distance flight is
caused by a pulmonary embolus, secondary to DVT. It is
believed that the swollen ankles and the thrombosis develop
during the flight from the prolonged period of sitting. The
inactivity of the legs causes the blood circulation to slow down
to a minimum, resulting in stagnation of blood in the lower legs
due to the effect of gravity thereby encouraging the formation
of a blood clot, usually in a deep vein in the calf.
Probably the two most effective ways to reduce the risk are to
wear low compression stockings up to the knees and to practise
leg exercises while seated.
The Adelaide Lymphoedema Clinic carries a full range of
suitable styles of socks and stockings for flying. Call the clinic
to be supplied and fitted. Contact the clinic here.
Adelaide Lymphoedema Clinic
29 Warwick St Walkerville SA 5081
T: 08 8342 9712
F: 08 8342 9711