The Economy Class syndrome
What is Economy Class Syndrome? (Travel Related Thrombosis)
Deep vein thrombosis, also called traveler’s thrombosis or DVT, has been linked to the low mobility fostered by long-haul flights and other forms of protracted travel in cramped spaces, such as automobile, bus and train trips. It was inaccurately nicknamed “economy class syndrome” because it was believed that the cramped conditions in coach class contributed to it.
In fact, DVT has taken place in passengers riding in business and first class – and even in people who sit for long periods at their office desks.
DVT is usually caused by inactivity and cramped spaces encountered during airline travel. DVT begins when blood pools in the legs during flight at high altitudes. This can cause a blood clot to occur.
As the blood clot grows, it may shed small pieces called emboli. Emboli can travel through large veins, but may get trapped in smaller ones and block blood flow. This condition is especially serious if emboli get caught in the heart or lungs, where they can cause injury, and in some cases, death. It is believed that DVT affects thousands of travelers and kills about 100 people a year.
It has become so serious that many major airlines have begun to distribute warning leaflets and show in-flight videos regarding DVT.
How Can You Reduce the Risk?
Experts suggest that you get up and walk around as much as possible.
Frequent ankle flexing is often the best prevention. Activate the calf muscles enough to push blood through the veins. Do it firmly and deliberately but not strenuously. Repeat the following exercises at least every hour.
1. Clench and unclench your toes.
2. Stretch your toes.
3. With your feet on the tips of your toes raise your legs.
4. Raise the tips of your toes.
5. Raise each leg with both hands, relax and rotate ankles.
How Do Gradient Compression Socks and Stockings Help?
Gradient compression stockings help prevent the veins in your legs from becoming overly filled with blood (congested). Veins that are congested with blood make your legs feel heavy. They may ache and fatigue easily. These stockings act to prevent leg swelling by counteracting pressures inside the leg and promoting blood flow back to the heart rather than allowing blood to pool in the legs. Compression squeezes the legs. Gradient compression hosiery (often called elastic stockings) is recommended to control leg swelling and leg discomfort and to prevent skin changes.
What is “Gradient Compression?”
Socks and stockings that are made tightest at the ankle and gradually decrease in tightness as they go up the leg are called gradient stockings.
Prevention of Blood Clots and Economy Class Syndrome
When you sit or stand for prolonged periods of time, the blood in the veins of your legs has difficulty returning to your heart because of the effects of gravity. Activity of the muscles of your calf is needed to contract (squeeze) and propel (push) the venous blood in your legs. Extended periods of venous congestion cause the legs to swell. Damaged or diseased leg veins that are congested may be more visible. They may even protrude and look like ropes wrapped around your legs. These distended and twisted veins are called varicose veins. Blood clots can also occur from the continued pooling of venous blood in the legs.