Flying After Deep Vein Thrombosis

Many people are rightly concerned about flying after suffering from Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) but by following a few simple guidelines, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to travel.

Arriving home from an extended overseas trip always feels strange. Having experienced a lifestyle not ruled by the clock, suddenly everything seems so regimented. Get up. Shower. Eat breakfast. Catch a train. Mutter a mandatory curse about your local public transport operator. Arrive at work to spend the next eight hours sitting at a desk. Only this time its different.

When I stand up to get my morning coffee I feel a slight pain in my leg. Its strange. I don’t remember pulling a muscle. Fast-forward 24 hours to the emergency ward of Box Hill Hospital and the doctor confirms my worst fears: I have deep vein thrombosis (DVT). My heart sinks. What does this mean for my future travel? As an aspiring travel writer, I certainly hope this isn’t the end of my dream.

DVT is the formation of blood clots in deep veins, often caused by long periods of immobility. The condition occurs most commonly in bed-ridden hospital patients; however the condition can also occur in healthy people who sit for long periods, such as long haul flights or car trips. The main danger with DVT is that the clot will break loose and travel through the bloodstream to the lungs, where it can cause a pulmonary embolism. In some cases, this can be fatal.

It was only luck that took me to a doctor. Having travelled regularly. I was blasé. I had heard of DVT, but it never crossed my mind that I might get it. I mean, whoever heard of anyone getting DVT? Fortunately, a friend had. She advised me to see a doctor.

The next month is surreal. I’m admitted to ‘home hospital’, which involves a nurse visiting me at home to administer blood-thinning injections. This prevents the clot from propagating and, hopefully, dissolves it. Then I learnt to self-inject and I’m left to my own devices, toting a personal bag of injections.

Treatment for DVT varies for case to case, but sometimes the blood-thinning injections are replaced by Warfarin tablets, which are taken for three to six months. During treatment there is an increased risk of bleeding, so regular blood tests are require to monitor dosage.

For the next month, I have plenty of time for hindsight. On my flight home I had barely moved. Sitting beside the window, I was conscious of disturbing other passengers, so I didn’t get up for a walk. And there were other things increasing my risk; being more than 40 years old, taking birth control pills and, quite possibly, dehydration.

Fortunately, I’m lucky and the blood clot dissolves after three weeks. I can still travel, but I need to take precautions: wear compression stockings, do leg exercise, drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol. Even in the worst-case scenario – a recurrence of DVT – I can carry blood-thinning injections with me. One thing is for certain; I won’t be requesting a window seat.


Seek urgent medical advice if you develop swelling or pain in your calf or thigh, or if you have breathing problems or chest pain after travelling.

For more information on DVT visit the Better Health Channel website.