Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot in a deep vein, usually in a leg.
A DVT is dangerous because the clot can break loose, travel through the bloodstream, and block blood flow to the lungs (pulmonary embolism). Without treatment, this can be deadly.
Sitting still for 4 or more hours slows down the blood flow in your legs. This makes your blood more likely to clot. And for the next few weeks, your blood clot risk stays higher than normal.
Even if you are healthy and have a low risk of blood clots, a long flight or road trip raises your risk of DVT.
If you already have a risk of blood clots, prolonged sitting raises your risk even more. Things that can already be raising your risk for DVT include a past DVT or pulmonary embolism, a recent surgery or injury, a blood clotting disorder, and cancer. Things that pose a small risk of DVT include pregnancy, taking hormones for birth control, or hormone therapy.
During a trip of 4 or more hours:
If you already have a risk of blood clots, talk to your doctor before taking a long trip. Your doctor may want you to wear compression stockings or take blood-thinning medicine.
For a few weeks after a long flight or trip, be alert for signs of a blood clot. A DVT needs treatment right away.
Call 911 or other emergency services if you:
Call your doctor right away if you have:
Other Works Consulted
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (2008). Your Guide to Preventing and Treating Blood Clots (AHRQ Publication No. 08-0058-A). Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Also available online: http://www.ahrq.gov/consumer/bloodclots.htm.
Chandra D, et al. (2009). Travel and risk for venous thromboembolism: Meta-analysis. Annals of Internal Medicine, 151(3): 180–190.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2008). The Surgeon General's call to action to prevent deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism. Available online: http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/calls/deepvein/index.html.
September 6, 2013
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
& Jeffrey S. Ginsberg, MD - Hematology
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