Dear doctor, can I prevent DVT during a long flight to the USA?

31 May 2017

Q: I am flying to the USA for my holiday and am worried about my risk of DVT. Can I prevent DVT?

A: DVT (deep vein thrombosis) is a serious condition where a clot has formed in the main (deep) veins of the leg. It is dangerous because it can break away and block essential blood flow to the lungs. It can also damage the non-return valves in the leg veins, leading to skin thickening and ulceration in the future.

DVT can, however, be prevented. People at especially high risk may be prescribed drugs to lower the blood’s ability to clot (anticoagulants), but for most people some simple measures will prevent this (thankfully rare) but important problem.

Risk factors for DVT during long-haul flights

  • Previous DVT or family history of DVTs
  • Cancer
  • Obesity
  • Recent surgery (especially general anaesthetic and abdominal/pelvic surgery)
  • Pregnancy
  • Reduced mobility
  • Heart failure

Your doctor or surgeon can advise if you need drug treatment for your journey or if it is advisable not to fly. For most people though, the use of knee length graduated compression stockings will improve the flow of blood in the veins, minimising the risk of DVT and leg swelling.

It can also help to exercise the ankles whilst sitting to improve blood flow and keep hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Alcohol avoidance and the use of aspirin have not been shown to significantly reduce DVT risk.

These simple measures will enable you to fully enjoy your holiday without worrying about DVT of the legs.

Mr Simon Payne is a Consultant General and Vascular Surgeon practising at Spire Portsmouth Hospital.


The content of this article is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the professional medical advice of your doctor or other health care professional.

Event Booking Form


Marketing Information

Spire would like to provide you with marketing information about products and services offered by Spire and by selected third-party partners. If you do not consent for us to process your personal data for marketing activities, we will still be able to contact you about your enquiry.

We may contact you by email, SMS or phone about your enquiry. If we try to contact you by phone (mobile and/or landline) and you are not available, we may leave you a voicemail message. We may also use your details to contact you about patient surveys we use for improving our service or monitoring outcomes, which are not a form of marketing.