March is Deep-Vein Thrombosis awareness month

March 2010 is the seventh annual Deep-Vein Thrombosis awareness month.

DVT is sometimes referred to as “economy class syndrome” because the cramped airplane cabin often prevents people from getting the movement they need to prevent blood clots.

Of course, airplanes are not the only place where DVT can be a problem – even desk workers or people bedridden can be in danger.

The Coalition to Prevent DVT has put together a collection of videos that raise awareness of the dangers of DVT, and help people understand the basic steps they can take to prevent DVT.

The videos can be watched online, or downloaded for transfer to your portable media player.

The dangers of DVT are very real – the spokesperson of the Coalition to Prevent DVT lost her husband, NBC News correspondant David Bloom from complications of DVT while covering the war in Iraq.

So, do yourself a favor and devote a small part of your day to watching these videos and learning how to combat DVT. Your knowledge can also help others so forward the information to anyone you know that is regularly stuck in a cramped airplane seat.

Prevent the dangerous “economy class syndrome”

A DVT (deep vain thrombus) is a condition that can be life threatening in travelers. You can get this from having poor blood circulation in the lower body, which leads to the blood clotting in the veins of the legs. The danger occurs if this clot finds its way to the lungs, suffocating the victim. This condition also goes by a few other names like VTE (venous thrombo-emobolism), PE (pulmonary emolism) or “economy class” syndrome” due to the cramped leg space on some airline carriers.

The veins of the legs carry blood, under low pressure, back to the heart and lungs, to be recharged with fresh oxygen. When a clot develops in these veins, it can be very large due to the increased diameter of the veins in the legs. Normal, healthy blood is made to clot and prevent somebody from bleeding to death in the event of a trauma. Blood also clots if it is not moving at its standard rate as well. A person sitting in a plane or car, for greater than 3-4 hours, is at risk for having decreased blood flow in the legs which can cause this dangerous clotting.

A sharp pain in the chest, increased heart rate and shortness of breath are all common symptoms. The DVT can occur several days after a trip and is, usually, first noticed as swelling of one leg more than another.

Travelers need to know how to maintain good blood flow in the legs, thus minimizing the risks of this deadly condition. For longer flights, trains, and drives, they key is mobility! Get up and out of your seat every hour to walk around. Visit the bathroom, walk the isle for a few paces or do some simple stretches in your chair. Some of my favorite stretches include flexing my calf muscles by raising my heels off the ground and placing my weight on the balls of my feet. Deep knee bends also work very well for stretching the muscles of the legs and increasing blood flow to the area.

Treatment for these conditions are required immediately. Medicines such as heparin or enoxaparin are commonly used. Awareness of this condition and taking steps to ensure good blood flow to the legs, during travel are the keys to prevention.

Resources: CDC Traveler’s Health Yellow Book: DVT