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Chiropractic Research Review

Deep-Vein Thrombosis: Relation to Long Air Travel

The true frequency of deep-vein thrombosis (DVT) during long periods of air travel is unknown. However, retrospective clinical studies and empirical accounts of physicians practicing near airports indicate that up to 20% of air traveling are susceptible to this condition.

This study sought to determine the frequency of DVT in the lower limb during long-haul air travel, and the efficacy of graduated elastic compression stockings in its prevention.

Eighty-nine male and 142 female passengers over the age of 50 with no thromboembolic problems were recruited for this study. Passengers were randomly allocated to one of two groups: one group wore class-I below-knee graduated elastic compression stockings; the other group did not. All of the passengers journeys departed from the United Kingdom (U.K.), lasted more than eight hours per flight, and returned to the U.K. within six weeks. Subjects reported to the study site within 48 hours of their return to the U.K. Duplex ultrasonography was used to assess the deep veins before and after travel. Blood samples were analyzed for two specific common gene mutations, factor V Leiden (FVL) and prohrombin G20210A (PGM), which predispose to venous thromboembolism. A sensitive D-dimer assay was used to screen for the development of recent thrombosis.

Twelve of 116 passengers studied developed symptoms of DVT in the calf. None of these passengers wore elastic compression stockings. Four passengers developed superficial thrombophlebitis, a different condition than the one studied. None of the passengers who wore compression stockings developed DVT.

Conclusion: Symptomless DVT may occur in long-haul airline travelers, but wearing elastic compression stockings during travel can potentially improve this condition.

Scurr J, Machin S, Bailey-King S, et al. Frequency and prevention of symptomless deep-vein thrombosis in long-haul flights; a randomized trial. The Lancet May 2001:357, pp1485-1489.

Chiropractic Research Review

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