Preventing Deep Vein Thrombosis From Travel - Topic Overview
What is deep vein thrombosis (DVT)?
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.
Why does travel raise your risk of DVT?
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.
When you have a deep-vein thrombosis (DVT), you need to treat it to avoid a life-threatening complication: a pulmonary embolism.
A pulmonary embolism (PE) usually happens when a blood clot in the leg breaks away, travels to the lungs, and blocks a lung artery. It can damage the lung and other organs and lead to low oxygen levels in the blood. It can even be fatal.
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 and taking hormones for birth control or hormone replacement.
How can you prevent DVT from travel?
During a trip of 4 or more hours:
Get up and walk around every half hour to an hour.
When in a car, stop and walk around every hour or so.
While you're sitting, raise and lower your toes, keeping your heels on the floor. Then raise and lower your heels, keeping your toes on the floor. Do this every 20 minutes.