Pre-Surgery Plane Travel Raises Clot Risk

Long flights boost odds 30 times, study finds

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THURSDAY, June 16, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Doctors may want to take special precautions for patients who must fly long distances for surgery, a new report suggest. Researchers found that long-haul flights greatly increase risks for major blood clots in the legs in these patients.

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., analyzed data on more than 3,700 patients who traveled an average of more than 5,000 miles to have surgery at that medical center.

The study found that the rate of blood clots or pulmonary embolisms within 28 days of surgery was more than 30 times higher in these long-distance travelers than among patients who had short trips or didn't have to travel.

"At medical institutions where patients are traveling a great distance for surgery, physicians should consider it as an additional risk factor," researcher Dr. Juraj Sprung said in a prepared statement.

These patients are at risk for pulmonary embolism, which occurs when a blood clot breaks into smaller pieces that are carried through the blood and become lodged in the blood vessels that supply the lungs. Pulmonary embolism can result in sudden death.

Sprung and his colleagues said patients taking long flights can help prevent blood clots by staying well-hydrated, exercising, and wearing elastic compression stockings. Prescription drugs might also be considered for people at high-risk for blood clots.

The findings appear in the current issue of Mayo Cinic Proceedings.

More information

The American Medical Association has more about pulmonary embolism.

SOURCE: Mayo Clinic, news release, May 31, 2005

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