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In-Flight Clot Risk Low for Most People
Date:9/24/2007

Odds of 'economy class syndrome' are about 1 in 5,000, research shows

MONDAY, Sept. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Despite recent media reports of airplane passengers developing serious blood clots in-flight, only about one in 5,000 people are at risk for these types of events, a new study finds.

This type of leg clot, called a venous thrombosis, has gotten a lot of recent attention. In fact, the condition has been nicknamed "economy class syndrome," since it's been linked to long hours of immobility during flight.

But the actual risk for the condition hasn't been known.

In this new study, European researchers calculated the risk and found that for most people, the risk for so-called "economy class syndrome" was actually very small. However, the odds of in-flight clot are higher for some groups than others, and knowing your risk is important to accurately assessing whether you should take preventive measures, the researchers said.

"People who make several flights in a short time frame, people who make very long flights, women who use oral contraceptives, people who are overweight and people who are either short or very tall are at increased risk," noted lead researcher Dr. Frits R. Rosendaal, from the department of clinical epidemiology and hematology at Leiden University Medical Center, The Netherlands.

Venous thromboembolism is a condition where blood clots form in the veins of the legs. The danger is that these clots can break loose and travel to the lungs, heart or brain causing a life threatening condition. These clots can develop from prolonged sitting.

In the study, Rosendaal's team collected data on almost 8,800 people who worked for international companies and traveled a lot. These individuals were followed for a total of 38,910 person-years, during which they went on more than 100,000 long-haul (more than 4 hours duration) flights.

During follow-up, 53 thromboses occurred
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