Venous thromboembolism in association with prolonged air travel

Dermatol Surg. 1996 Jul;22(7):637-41. doi: 10.1111/j.1524-4725.1996.tb00610.x.


Objective: To study risk factors for the development of air travel-related acute venous thromboembolism.

Methods: A retrospective study of 254 patients admitted from 1988 to 1993 under the diagnosis of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and/or pulmonary embolism (PE) identified 44 patients who developed symptoms during or after air flight.

Results: There were 24 males and 20 females with a mean age of 63 years. Flight times were 5-17 hours. Twenty-eight patients (63.6%) had DVT only, five patients (11.4%) PE only, and 11 patients (25%) DVT and PE. Ninety-five percent had extension of the thrombus above the calf: popliteal vein, 10 patients; superficial femoral vein, 13 patients; common femoral vein, six patients; and iliac vein, eight patients. Five patient-related risk factors were identified: history of previous DVT (34%), presence of chronic disease or malignancy (25%), hormone therapy (16%), recent lower limb injury (11%), and recent surgery or femoral catheterization (9%).

Conclusions: We can speculate about the role of seven cabin-related risk factors: low humidity, hypoxia, diuretic effect of alcohol, insufficient fluid intake, smoking, "coach" position, and immobilization. In travelers with patient-related risk factors, the cabin-related risk factors are superimposed and may increase the risks for air travel-related acute venous thromboembolism. Active prophylaxis is recommended.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aerospace Medicine*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Catheterization, Peripheral
  • Chronic Disease
  • Diuresis
  • Estrogen Replacement Therapy
  • Female
  • Femoral Vein
  • Humans
  • Humidity
  • Hypoxia / complications
  • Iliac Vein
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / complications
  • Popliteal Vein
  • Posture
  • Pulmonary Embolism / etiology*
  • Recurrence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Thrombophlebitis / etiology*
  • Thrombosis / etiology
  • Travel*