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Blood Clots

My wife and I just came back from Europe. On the way over and back I got up 3 times to stand, streched my legs and walked around a bit. I even did knee bends. This was to avoid the the situation that I had read about of developing blood clots in your legs. All went well and seemed just fine.

Ten days after returning, I started to have a sharp jabbing pain in my right side below the arm pit. A half deep breath really hurt! I thought perhaps this was gas pain so I took some anti-gas pills when I got home from work which did not seem to help. The next morning I called the doctor and went in for an exam. He found nothing that looked suspicious and also ordered some chest x-rays. He was especially interested in my having had long flights recently. The next day at work he called and said the x-ray techician had spotted what might be fluid in my lungs. I was told to go to hospital and get a cat scan. The scan detected 7 clots in my lungs. Evidently, the pain I felt was the clots from my legs working their way up and in. I then got to spend 3 days in the hospital on a blood thinner IV and am now taking Warfin (a blood thinner) every day for the next 6 months.

The doctor said I did everything right to prevent the clots and this works 95% of the time. Someone makes up the 5% and unfortunately I was part of the 5%. He said perhaps taking a couple aspirin the day before and day of the flights would of lessened the chance of this happening? The point of all of this is to tell you that those nasty little clots are a real danger, they could of caused something "life altering" to have occured. I suggest that maybe you consult with your doctor a couple weeks before you fly to see what he/she might recommend to prevent this from happening to you, especially if you are over 50. I am 55. I might also say I have flown across the pond 3 time prior to this with no known problem.

Posted by
112 posts

Thanks for sharing this. Really scary. We always
stretch a lot and walk around the cabin, tighten
up the buttocks and legs. We will do it a lot \
more now. I am certainly going to have my husband
check with the doctor as he had back surgery
in February and we are traveling in September.

Posted by
705 posts

This is a really serious problem and I, like so many others, assume it won't happen to me. I had a friend who in the end had to give up his job due to DVTs. He did a lot of travel and had 3 episodes of DVT even though he was on preventative medication and for the last few trips flew 1st class.

Your suggestion of asprin prior to a trip is something I have discussed with my doctor and something I now do. I fly once to Europe and once to US each year and start taking asprin a day or so prior to my trip and a day or so days after I get home. Our flights are a longer - anywhere between 18 - 24 hours so I do this religiously.

I really glad all worked out for you but I can image how shocked you must have been. Thanks for sharing your story.

Posted by
32107 posts


Thanks for the reminder about the possibility of DVT on long flights! This problem was getting lots of media coverage a few years ago, but lately it seems to have "fallen off the radar".

On a flight to England in 2004, the airline I used (Thom.Cook) aired a short video prior to take-off describing exercises to do during flight to avoid DVT. There was no video on my flights last year, so I wonder if the airlines are as concerned about this now? It's possible they were just practising "due diligence" to avoid legal problems, but it would be nice if all airlines would remind passengers.

I'm also in the mid-50's age group, so this is also a big concern for me. I've heard conflicting reports on the efficacy of "ASA therapy" prior to flying, however it can't hurt (ASA doesn't seem to bother my stomach), so I'll be using that before my next flight.

It's great that you provided a description of the symptoms also. Something for travellers to be aware of!

Happy travels!

Posted by
4 posts

Thanks for the warning, Den.

I'm sorry you were one of the unlucky ones, and I hope you have a successful and comfortable recovery.

Posted by
97 posts

Hi Den- So sorry to hear about what happened to you. I am glad to hear everything was alright in the end. I am only 38 but it can happen to me as well. Next time I fly I will do as you suggested with the aspirin a few days before. Maybe even buy some of those special socks. I always try to walk around on the plane, but you know there is only so much you can do in a little space. All the best to you. Kim

Posted by
3580 posts

Legs and feet can be exercised while sitting in your seat. Flex feet around and up&down, tighten and relax other leg muscles, lift knees toward your chest as high as possible then relax them. Tighten and relax gluteal (butt) muscles. It all helps keep blood from pooling in the legs. It's a good idea to stand and walk a little as often as possible--every hour if you can. I like isle seats, as this makes leg stretching easier.

Posted by
107 posts

A bit more info.

I talked to 2 different doctors and asked if the cabin pressure might of been a contributing factor? They both said, "No". It was the restrictive sitting position and the lack of movement that were the main contributors. Just hope that this discussion helps others.

Things are going well, thanks for the good wishes. It looks like I will be drinking fewer beers this football season! Suppose to avoid that stuff while on the thinner meds.

My biggest thrill from all this was after the Scan, I was sent to the waiting room to await the results. After a short while, a nurse appeared with a wheel chair and said I was going to get a free ride that I was being admitted to the hospital and my doctor was on the phone waiting to talk to me.... Gulp!!!

Posted by
192 posts

Den, thanks so much for sharing your story! I hope you have a total recovery from this scary stuff.
When husband and I flew to Europe in 2006, I got an aisle seat. The flight took 8 hours and I got up every hour and walked all over that plane, everywhere I could. Even strolled into first class like I owned the place! (What could they do, toss me off the plane?) :) I went up and down aisles and stood by my seat for 5-10 min. each time. I had worn surgical stockings, and I think those helped also. I hadn't thought about taking an aspirin, tho. Think I'll add that to my routine this next trip. I remember being amazed at how many people just SAT for the entire trip (except for trips to the potty). I'd be in pieces.

Posted by
40 posts

Just out of curiousity why does this happen more on a plane and not on the ground (say at night when you're sleeping)? Is it just the longer period of time that you stay in one position?

Posted by
12040 posts

"Just out of curiousity why does this happen more on a plane and not on the ground (say at night when you're sleeping)? Is it just the longer period of time that you stay in one position?"
It happens far more frequently on the ground but gets less attention unless it happens on a flight. People most at risk include the elderly with limited mobility, and hospitalized patients post-surgery. Although stretching exercises may help to reduce the risk, a person's underlying medical condition is probably the single most important determinate.

Posted by
389 posts

Den, I'm with ya' man. Although my experience wasn't on the plane it has made me very aware of travel. To those who wonder about DVTs when not traveling, I had them at 38 and they broke loose, went to my lungs and cause great pain, breathing problems and fear for my doc who paniced that I'd driven to the office to find out about this. Aspirin is good for everyone over 30 on a regular basis according to my doc. Also I don't even ride in a car or drive long distances without getting up frequently and doing my own little jig with my feet and calf muscles (push ups with my toes). Because mine were due to birth control pills no one expects it to happen again, but I never want to go through that again!

Posted by
93 posts

Pressure might also contribute to it. A few years ago, I had some veins injected at a varicose vein clinic. They told me that one of the largest groups of patients they have is flight attendants because they have terrible vein problems.

Following the injections, I was told to wear the very tight support stockings whenever I flew. They really helped with the swelling in my feet and achy legs that I usually get after long flights. I would recommend getting them if you have any of these problems.

Posted by
45 posts

Den- Great to hear you're doing better. I know that using surgical stockings, or whatever they're called to help with blood flow in the legs work wonderfully. Also, I know many a doctors tell their patients, especially if they're over 50 and have any heart or DVT problems, to take low dosage asprin (like 81mg) long term to help prevent complications.

Posted by
107 posts

Kelly, I've taken a 81 mg every day for a couple years but now Doc said to now take 2 of those 81 mg pills from now on. He said that would be good for everyone over 50. Geez... I always thought if you could survive the 60's you take on anything!!

Posted by
57 posts

I've always worried about that as well and asked my doctor. She told me get up and walk for 5 minutes every two hours during the flight. I'm on aspirin therapy anyway so the recommendation to take a daily dose if you can is smart.

Posted by
206 posts

Thank you, Den, for bringing this important subject up! Sorry you went through all of that.

Those with stomach issues should also make sure to mention that to their doctor. I'm one of those who cannot take aspirin on a regular basis. My father took aspirin daily after his strokes, but had to stop after the bleeding ulcer episode.

I haven't flown across the pond for a few years, and have a question: For those of you who get up and walk around during the flight, how do you accomplish this? It seems like the beverage cart is in front of me (so can only walk to the back and get stuck until they're done) or vice versa. Any suggestions? I'm planning to go to Western Europe next Spring. It sure would be great to stretch!

Posted by
7 posts

It must be that 5% of the people are affected, I will be 80 in one month and i just returned from a
safari in Africa. The flight was 17 hrs to JFK. but I do have a warning for someone that might be going to take a sleeping pill. My doctor gave me ambien
I have no memory of anything after I took it.Completely knocked me out. the second time I took it I had fallen and my daughter had to come and get me up and there was absolutely no memory of this. I consider this to be a dangerous drug.

Posted by
345 posts

If I am concerned about my health and want to walk around, I will do so. One should not interfere in the staffs' job, but if one told me I shouldn't be walking around in general, I'd be tempted to tell them to go pound sand.

On my last British Air flight, they actually talked about this subject in the pre-flight instructions.

Posted by
9363 posts

DW, on larger planes it's usually easy to cross from one aisle to the other in the middle of the plane. If one aisle is blocked you can cross over and go the other way.

Posted by
808 posts

Lots of references to Flight Attendants here...
DVT is a real concern. Den, I am sorry to hear of your suffering.

I can appreciate your suggestion of consulting your Doctor a couple of weeks before you fly, especially if you are over 50. Perhaps this proactive approach will help reduce suffering and the potential for Inflight Medical emergencies.

I really like the idea of including some simple inflight exercises! It would be a great addition to the pre-departure video!

It can be difficult to stoll the aisle in a single aisle aircraft even at the best of times. Keep an eye out for the trolley and plan accordingly, avoiding meal service.

Pax are not permitted in/around the Galley area. It is a very busy area with potential hazzards that could compromise your safety and theirs. For that same reason you can not sit on safety equipment, either. It might be a neat spot to sit and chat or exercise but it is emergency equipment and must be kept clear at all times.

Posted by
808 posts

BTW, Flight Attendants do have a tremendous amount of responsibility but I do think the majority would be concerned about passengers' health, safety and comfort as well.

We are passengers, too. We travel too, and even Dead Head on other Airlines to operate flights between cities.

As a passenger, I, too, like to do stretches for the same reasons you do. In fact, if you peak behind the Galley curtain you might even catch US working the kinks out! Imagine that!