New Evidence Proves Flight Socks Reduce DVT Risks
Although travel may seem far away at the moment, evidence published about deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and long haul travel is still newsworthy.
This is because deep vein thrombosis can be life-threatening. A simple pair of socks has just been proved to reduce some of the most serious risks.
It has long been recognised that air travel might increase the risk of DVT. Now in a Cochrane review the benefits of flight socks have been proven.
DVTs don't always have symptoms. If untreated, a DVT can cause a pulmonary embolism (PE). This is when part of a blood clot breaks away and lodges in the lungs which can be fatal.
The relationship between DVTs and PEs is such that the term venous thromboembolism (VTE) is often used to cover both conditions. VTEs are a leading cause of death in the UK.
DVTs have been called "economy class syndrome" and were first associated with flying as a potential cause in the 1950s. Prolonged immobilisation, dehydration, humidity, hereditary factors and lifestyle issues have been suspected as causes for many years.
Because they are similar to those known to be effective in patients recovering from surgery, flight socks are often marketed as being successful in reducing the risk of DVTs.
Flight socks are intended to be worn throughout a flight. By applying gentle pressure to the ankle, flight socks help blood flow. However, it has not been clear and certain they had a proven effect.
The Cochrane review included 12 trials with a total of 2918 participants. Almost half of the participants were randomly assigned to wearing flight socks for a flight lasting at least five hours, while the other half did not wear them.
The review has proved that wearing flight socks results in a large reduction in symptomless DVTs among airline passengers.
Furthermore, people who wore flight socks had less swelling in their legs. Fewer passengers developed superficial vein thrombosis.
Because DVTs do not always have any symptoms, passengers were carefully assessed after the flight. This helped to detect any problems with the circulation of blood in their legs.
None of the passengers developed a DVT with obvious symptoms (slowly developing leg pain, swelling and increased temperature)
It is clear that wearing flight socks results in a substantial reduction in the incidence of symptomless DVT.
When long haul travel becomes more frequent again in the future, for leisure or business, it is well worth wearing flight socks, particularly if you have known risk factors.
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