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Economy Class Syndrome Back in the News

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Economy Class Syndrome Back in the News

Economy Class Syndrome Back in the News

May 18, 2001
-A Veins Technology Story
by Sheila Dwyer, Veins1 Staff

“Economy class syndrome” is making headlines again. Experts claim that compression stockings worn on long-haul flights can substantially reduce your risk of developing blood clots.

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) was dubbed “economy class syndrome” by the media after a 28-year-old woman died on an Australia to Britain flight. DVT is often caused by long periods spent in cramped conditions, with no place to stretch or walk. The seating in the economy section of an airplane is notoriously tight, which can restrict movement and cause blood clot formation and, possibly, DVT.

Dr. John Scurr is a British vascular surgeon who conducted the first trial into flying and DVT. “Blood clots are associated with long-distance travel,” he said during a news conference. “The risk of a serious problem is very low.”

Dr. Scurr recently examined passengers before and after long flights. His results were recently published in The Lancet medical journal. “It shows a very definite link between long-haul flying and the development of small thromboses (small clots),” he said. “One in 10 people are at risk of developing a small blood clot.”

The 230 people who participated in the study were all over 50 years of age and took flights lasting more than eight hours. Half the passengers wore compression stockings, while the other half did not.

After the flight, the passengers were examined with an ultrasound technique. No small blood clots were found in the passengers who wore compression stockings. They were, however, found in 10 percent of the passengers who did not wear the stockings.

Most of the people who developed small blood clots on the flight had no symptoms. A few of them required blood thinners, but most small blood clots resolve themselves.

Dr. Scurr recommends the use of compression stockings during all travel where extensive immobility is required, not just flights. “It (DVT) can affect anybody, using any means of transport, if they sit long enough,” said Dr. Scurr.

The elderly and people with a history of blood clots are at a higher risk for developing DVT. “Flying is very safe for the majority of people but there are some people at risk and it is difficult to identify them,” Dr. Scurr said.

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