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Traveling this holiday season? Know the risks of DVT

Tips for travelers on extended flights or drives

planeThe 2014 year-end holiday travel period is defined by AAA as beginning today, Tuesday, December 23, through Sunday, January 4, 2015.

Travel volume for the year-end holidays will reach the highest peak recorded by AAA (since 2001), with nearly 91 percent of all travelers (89.5 million) celebrating the holidays with a road trip and 5.7 million travelers taking to the skies.

Travelers with varicose veins — both men and women — should know the risks of DVT. Anyone with varicose veins is at a slightly higher risk for deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or pulmonary embolism (PE) during a long flight or ride.

In addition to varicose veins, Dr. Thomas Wakefield, head of vascular surgery at the University of Michigan, identifies these risk factors for DVT and PE:

  • Advanced age
  • Active cancer and cancer treatments
  • Immobility, paralysis
  • Recent trauma, surgery or hospitalization
  • Family history or personal history of DVT or PE
  • Pregnancy and the period around delivery
  • Oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapies
  • Obesity
  • Chronic medical conditions
  • Infections
  • Inherited and acquired blood clotting abnormalities
  • Smoking (in some studies)

Dr. Wakefield offers the following tips for anyone flying or traveling for long periods of time (4 or more hours):

  • Wear compression stockings.
  • Get up and move about whenever possible.
  • Periodically pump your legs up and down while seated.
  • Drink lots of fluids and wear loose-fitting clothes that do not restrict blood flow.
  • Try not to cross your legs for extended periods of time.
  • Avoid drinking alcoholic beverages during travel.
  • Taking an aspirin before traveling may be helpful.

“Any and all methods of reducing your risk of DVT are important,” says Dr. Wakefield. “If you plan to travel this holiday season and have concerns about your risks of getting a blood clot, be sure to talk with your doctor or a healthcare professional.”


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The University of Michigan Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center is a top-ranked heart and heart surgery program among Michigan hospitals. To learn more, visit our website at umcvc.org.