Posts Tagged ‘DVT’
Stephan Moll, MD writes… Can the patient with acute DVT or PE safely fly, or should he/she wait for a few weeks before embarking on airline travel? It appears safe to fly early: There is no evidence that flying early after the diagnosis of VTE leads to an increased risk of recurrent VTE or embolization from a DVT, as long as the patient is on adequate anticoagulation.
Airline travel and Thrombosis
a) The person NOT on anticoagulation
Airline travel is an established (mild) risk factor for DVT and PE in the patient who is NOT on anticoagulation [1,2]; the longer the travel, the higher the risk for thrombosis . Typically, multiple risk factors come together –overweight, hormone therapy (e.g. contraceptives), recent surgery, trauma, or hospital stay, cancer, genetic or acquired clotting disorders, and the immobility from the travel itself. It has also been suggested that the hypobaric atmosphere in the airplane cabin might lead to coagulation activation and an increased risk for VTE, particularly in persons with one or more of the above underlying risk factors for VTE [ref 4], but neither have data on this issue been consistent, nor is it clear whether such changes are clinically relevant.
b) The patient with VTE who is on anticoagulation
- Is there an increased risk for recurrent DVT or PE or embolization from a DVT? It is not known whether the risk for recurrent VTE or the risk for a DVT to embolize is increased with airline travel in the patient who is on anticoagulation for a previous VTE. Any potential coagulation activation by the hypobaric cabin environment is likely counteracted by the fact that the patient is on anticoagulation. Thus, an increased anticoagulation failure rate (i.e. progression of DVT or PE; increased risk of DVT leading to PE) is not likely. And while the reduction in ambient cabin pressure per se leads to a small reduction in a patient’s partial pressure of oxygen (PO2) and this may lead to mild vasodilatation and an increase in cardiac output, this is not likely to increase the risk of embolization from a DVT.
- Do patients with DVT develop increased leg swelling while flying? The patient with acute DVT (or postthrombotic syndrome) and leg swelling may experience somewhat more leg swelling during or after the flight – because of leg edema from an increase in capillary permeability in the hypobaric cabin environment, not because of DVT progression. Also, the distances to walk and the prolonged standing in the airport may lead to worsened leg edema. However, this is not expected to lead to progressive or recurrent DVT.
- Do patients with PE develop increased shortness of breath while flying? The patient who has a large PE or has other underlying hypoxic lung disease (COPD, etc.) may have some worsening of shortness of breath during flying – not because of new PE, but because the cabin’s environment is mildly hypoxic.
Rules by the International Air Transportation Association (IATA) limit the decrease in cabin pressure in commercial aircraft to an equivalent altitude of 8,000 ft (564 mmHg, 0.74 ATA), although most planes maintain their pressures at an equivalent altitude of around 5,000 ft (632 mmHg, 0.83 ATA). Thus, the predicted decrease in a patient’s arterial PO2 is small, and would be clinically significant only for people with pre-existing hypoxemia.
In general, I discuss with the patient who has an acute DVT or PE and wants to fly soon that…
- he/she can fly, even immediately after the VTE diagnosis, as long as he/she is on full-dose anticoagulation.
- that airline travel is not expected to lead to an increased risk of recurrent VTE or embolization from a DVT.
- leg swelling in the patient with DVT may temporarily worsen during and in the few days after airline travel due to the hypobaric pressure in the airline cabin.
- shortness of breath in the patient with a large PE may be somewhat worse during airline travel due to the mildly decreased oxygen content in the airline cabin.
- it may be worthwhile to delay a flight for at least a few days to be sure that the patient is stable, no unexpected issues occur, and/or the patient has had time to adapt to this new, potentially life-modifying diagnosis and treatment.
- Chandra D et al. Meta-analysis: Travel and risk for venous thromboembolism. Ann Intern Med 2009;151:180-190.
- Cannegieter SC. Travel-related thrombosis. Best Pract Res Clin Haematol. 2012 Sep;25(3):345-50.
- Schreijer AJ et al. Activation of coagulation system during air travel: a crossover study. Lancet 2006 Mar 11;367(9513):832-8.
- Schreijer AJ et al. Explanations for coagulation activation after air travel. J Thromb Haemost 2010 May;8(5):971-8.
I appreciate the discussions with Dr. Richard Moon, Medical Director, Center for Hyperbaric Medicine & Environmental Physiology, Duke University Medical Center, Dr. Claude Piantadosi, Interim Chief, Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine, Duke University Medical Center, and Dr. Philip Blatt, Adjunct Professor of Internal Medicine and Hematology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC.
Last updated: July 12th, 2017
Stephan Moll, MD writes… A plain language summary for patients and interested public about homocysteine and the MTHFR mutations and their relevance in respect to thrombosis was published today in the journal Circulation (link here).
Reference: Moll S, Varga EA. Homocysteine and MTHFR Mutations. Circulation. 2015;132:e6-e.
Stephan Moll, MD writes (Dec 17, 2014)… The American Society of Hematology (ASH) published last week as part of its Choosing Wisely® campaign two things that physicians dealing with DVT, PE and anticoagulants should avoid [ref 1]. Read the rest of this entry »
Stephan Moll, MD writes (on Dec 8th, 2014)… A publication this week in the New England Journal of Medicine reports on an investigational drug that protects patients from VTE without increasing the risk of bleeding [reference below]. Too good to be true? Possibly, but may be not. Additional studies will have to tell. Read the rest of this entry »
Stephan Moll, MD writes… Apixaban (Eliquis®) was approved by the FDA this week (Aug 21, 2014) for the treatment of DVT and PE. The approval covers (a) acute DVT/PE management and (b) prevention of recurrent DVT/PE. Read the rest of this entry »
Beth Waldron, Clot Connect Program Director writes….
The physical consequences of thromboembolism (VTE) [=deep vein thrombosis DVT and pulmonary embolism PE] have been extensively reported in the medical literature. Less documented has been the emotional impact of VTE on patients. This lack of formal study is notable given the extensive research on the psychological impact of other sudden, potentially life-threatening cardiovascular events (heart attack, stroke) which has provided clear evidence that such illnesses can result in significant psychological morbidity and contribute to adverse health outcomes. Read the rest of this entry »
Stephan Moll, MD writes… A recent NEJM study (ref 1) examined whether the risk for thrombosis in women persists beyond the first 6 weeks after delivery. It found that an increased risk persists for at least 3 months after delivery, although the absolute risk was low after the first 6 weeks. This is of clinical relevance, as the post-partum period has traditionally often been defined as the 6 weeks after delivery and, if post-partum anticoagulation prophylaxis is considered, it is typically given for 6 weeks only (ACOG – ref 2). Read the rest of this entry »
Stephan Moll, MD writes… This week (Feb 18th, 2014) a guidance document on the prevention and management of catheter-associated upper extremity (brachial, axillary, subclavian, and brachiocephalic veins) and neck (internal jugular) DVT was published by the International Society for Thrombosis and Haemostasis (ISTH) [ref 1]. The authors acknowledge that optimal long-term management of catheter-associated DVT has not been established. The key recommendations: Read the rest of this entry »
Stephan Moll, MD writes… Today, Sept 1st, 2013, the New England Journal of Medicine published the phase 3 clinical trial of edoxaban versus warfarin in the treatment of DVT and PE [ref 1]. It showed that edoxaban was as effective as warfarin and led to less clinically relevant bleeding. Read the rest of this entry »
Stephan Moll, MD writes… A major international coagulation conference, the bi-annual meeting of the International Society for Thrombosis and Haemostasis (ISTH; www.isth.org), took place in Amsterdam, Holland, from June 29th to July 4th, 2013. The clinically relevant highlights about thrombosis and anticoagulation are summarized below. Read the rest of this entry »