Prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis during Long Holiday Trips
Article submitted by Centennial Medical Center
Spring Break and summer season planning has begun,and many families are spending these well-earned days off overseas or taking long road trips. Extended hours of immobility can contribute to the development of deep vein thrombosis, and it’s important to know the causes and effects to prevent clot formations during a long trip.Dr. Ana C. Lorenzo, vascular surgeonon the medical staff at Centennial Medical Center in Frisco, answers a few questions to help explain what a DVT is and how it can affect the body.
Q: What is Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)?
Our arms and legs have a superficial and deep system of veins to return blood to the heart. Deep vein thrombosis is a clot formation in the deep system of the veins of the extremities, neck, torso or pelvis. The clot may completely block flow in the vein (occlusive) or it may partially impair flow (nonocclusive.)
Q: What causes DVT and what are the warning signs?
DVT occurs when one or more of the following conditions are present: trauma to the vein, stasis or a low-flow state and a hypercoagulable state where the patient’s blood has an unusual tendency (congenital or acquired) to form clot. There is no warning sign to suggest that a DVT is developing but once formed, symptoms include swelling and pain, often with a blue, congested appearance to the skin. In severe cases, the extremity will even appear diffusely red and warm.
Q: Is there a risk of developing DVT during long travel flights, such as those over eight hours?
The likelihood of developing a DVT increases with the duration of immobility or limited mobility.
Q: What are the best ways to avoid DVT or blood clots during long travel and on a daily basis?
The calf muscle is a very important pump for return of blood flow from the legs to the heart. While walking is limited during air travel or travel by car, one can promote flow by flexing the calf muscle with heel and toe raises and pointing. On a daily basis, one should avoid prolonged immobility like sitting at a desk for too long. It is also unhealthy to stand or lie in one place for too long without moving.
Q: What should be brought on long flights to keep the body comfortable and to avoid DVT?
Compression hosiery, specialized stockings, socks and tights designed to increase blood circulation, should be worn to counteract the tendency of blood to pool in the legs. This hosiery will decrease the swelling that is common to travelers.
Q: What kind of clothes should be worn during long flights?
In addition to well-fitted compression hosiery, it is important that footwear is easily removed or can allow for range of motion at the ankle to enhance calf muscle flexion. Lastly, one should avoid clothing that is too tight and constricting.
Q: What steps should be taken if DVT signs are sensed?
If one suspects that they have DVT, they should quickly proceed to an emergency room where an ultrasound can be performed. Like most maladies, early diagnosis improves the options for treatment and good outcome.