Friday, July 10, 2009

The Plane Truth About Your Veins

There's something I have to plan for every time I travel to embark on a cruise. No, it's not my wardrobe, although that does matter. It's my veins.

You see, after breaking my leg and taking a flight home from Florida last year, I developed deep vein thrombosis (DVT). It's an insidious condition that, in my case, was nearly deadly. The blood clot in my leg threw off smaller clots that lodged in my lungs. After three days in Intensive Care and a series of painful shots of heparin at home, I've been on a regimen of anti-clotting medication (warfarin) for the past nine months. For me, the end of the monthly trips to a clinic to check the level of medicine in my bloodstream is almost over, but I have a lifetime of concern ahead of me.

Why am I mentioning this now? To help spread the word. Just this week Reuters issued the warning that "People who travel have nearly triple the normal risk of developing a dangerous blood clot, with a measurable increase for every two hours spent sitting in a car or wedged into an airline seat, researchers reported on Monday. They said the risk is serious enough to merit research into better ways to keep travelers healthy, although not severe enough to justify giving airline passengers anti-clotting drugs."

In that report, which was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, Dr. Divay Chandra and his colleagues at Harvard University in Boston combined the results of 14 studies involving 4,000 patients and concluded, "Our findings demonstrate for the first time a clear association between travel and VTE. "

VTE is venous thromboembolism, the development of a blood clot in a vein, usually in the legs. The Cleveland Clinic defines it thus, "Deep venous thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE) represent different manifestations of the same clinical entity referred to as a venous thromboembolism (VTE)."

The Harvard study also finds the risk of developing DVT is one case in every 4,600 airline trips. That doesn't sound very dire, unless you are, like me, that one case. With a history of DVT, I'm at an even higher risk of developing it again.

Whether traveling by car or plane, my personal travel routine includes drinking a lot of water and getting up to move around every hour. That adds a lot of time to road trips, but it's essential. While I'm seated, I flex my ankles to keep the blood in my legs moving. I also wear compression stockings (aside from my pink cast, there is a wardrobe component here).

The next time you're planning a cruise, take a few moments to think about that long plane flight or car ride to get to port. Staying hydrated and moving around frequently are small steps to staying healthy. You don't have to break your leg to develop DVT.

1 comment:

herb said...

Thanks so much for those tips! Certainly something to remember next time we travel long distance and even more reason to always drink lots of water.