DVT danger goes under microscope

by JAMES CHAPMAN, Daily Mail

Experts on 'economy class syndrome' are to launch a huge new study amid mounting concern about the dangers of long-haul flights.

The decision was taken at a summit in Germany attended by doctors, surgeons and airline health chiefs from around the world.

They were told that the risk of developing potentially fatal blood clots appeared to be greater than had previously been feared.

An international research project is crucial to identify the people who are particularly at risk, assess how widespread the problem is and establish the best ways for passengers to protect themselves.

Scientists from the UK, the U.S., Australia and Germany agreed to carry out a joint study of at least 2,000 passengers.

They will be questioned about their medical history and have ultrasound scans before and after air travel to detect any sign of deep vein thrombosis - DVT.

The condition kills 30,000 people each year in the UK. No one knows how many die after air travel but Chicago surgeon Professor Joseph Caprini said that he believed as many as one in every ten cases could be flight-related.

John Scurr, the British surgeon who organised the one-day meeting in Frankfurt, said: 'There has been enormous public concern and we really need to know how big the problem is. We have been shown figures ranging from 12 deaths a year in the UK to 2,000.

'I would say it was considerably more than 12 but the truth is we just don't know.'

The 14 experts at the meeting heard that high-risk categories include people over 40, those heavily overweight, those with heart or lung disease or passengers who have recently had hospital surgery.

Among younger passengers, professional athletes, stomach ulcer victims and people with a family history of blood clots are in more danger.

The scientists will not seek funding from the airline industry for their research, so it will be seen as completely independent.

Instead, they will apply to their national medical research councils. They hope to launch the study later this year.

Mr Scurr said: 'The first part is going to involve looking at people in an aircraft environment to see what changes take place in their bodies.

'We need to know whether this is a problem on two-hour flights, four-hour flights or ten-hour flights. Then we will track passengers before and after travel, looking at what risk factors are important.'

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