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DVT RESEARCH 'FLIGHT' 


Researchers from the University of Leicester are to undertake a study, which could prove for the first time if there is a link between flying and potentially lethal blood clots.

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) has been dubbed "economy-class syndrome" after being linked to a string of cases in which people have died following long-haul fights. 

The condition is known to be caused by sitting still for long periods, but it has never been proved if there is any specific link to flying.

Hospitals in Leicestershire typically see around 1,000 cases of DVT a year, although only a small proportion of these will have happened after people have been flying.

Now, a team of researchers at Glenfield Hospital is to carry out a study on 32 healthy volunteers, who will sit through an eight-hour simulated flight, with a cabin pressure equivalent to that at an altitude of 8,000ft, at RAF Henlow, in Bedfordshire.

Volunteers will be monitored to see if the flight triggers the body's blood clotting system.

The study is part of an international research programme, the WRIGHT project, which is being overseen by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), to quantify how big a risk flying is and to identify any risk factors which could make one person more likely to suffer DVT than another. The work is being funded by the UK Government Department for Transport, the Department of Health, and the European Commission.

The study is headed by Dr William Toff, Senior Lecturer in Cardiology, in collaboration with Alison Goodall, Professor of Thrombosis & Haemostasis, both of whom are based in the Department of Cardiovascular Sciences in the University’s Clinical Sciences Unit at Glenfield Hospital.

Dr Toff said: "We are looking to clarify the strength of the association between long-haul air travel and DVT. We accept there probably is a link.

"The study aims to find out if there's anything specific about the aeroplane cabin that makes it more likely for people to get a clot, over and above the risk from sitting still.

"We are particularly interested in the possible effects of the reduced air pressure and oxygen levels."

Professor Goodall added: “The results of this study should not only determine whether there really is a risk to air travellers but will help to inform us on the best way to prevent DVT during long-haul flights”

DVT means blood clots form in the deep veins of the legs, from where they may travel up to the lungs, causing breathing difficulties and, in some cases, death.

A spokesman for British Airways said: "We believe there should be much more research done on, and greater understanding of, the risks of DVT. We are already taking part in research and the more research that is done, the better it will be."

Anyone interested in taking part in the DVT research should call the team on 0116 2563046 for more information.

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Last updated: 8 September 2003 09:37
Created by: Rachel Tunstall

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