The Economy Class Syndrome - Thromboembolic Disease

What is it?

Prolonged immobility on a long-haul flight and sitting with bent legs with compression of the back of the knees by the front edge of the seat can obstruct the flow of blood in the leg veins. This may initiate the process of thrombosis (clotting) of the leg veins resulting in their blockage.

How can this be avoided?

Predisposing factors should be modified:

  • Discontinue oral contraceptives / stop smoking / try to achieve your optimal weight

Precautions during your flight:

  • You should purchase and use full-length Anti-Embolism (TED / DVT) stockings for the duration of your flight, during and after surgery.
  • Drink lots of water and not alcohol as this dehydrates your system.
  • Take along your own bottled water.
  • Walk around as often as possible during your flight to keep your blood circulation going (get an aisle seat).
  • Avoid sleeping tablets as they result in prolonged periods of immobility.
  • While you are in your seat, alternately contract and relax different muscle groups, especially those of the lower legs, this helps the blood flow in your legs

When you arrive in Cape Town:

  • Go for a brisk walk soon after arrival to assist the circulation in your legs.
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