DVT risk from air travel unrelated to reduced air pressure in cabin

June 26, 2003

Results of a study published as a research letter in this week's issue of THE LANCET suggest that reduced air pressure (leading to decreased oxygen availability) in pressurised aircraft cabins is not associated with increased activity of the agents responsible for blood clotting and potential deep-vein thrombosis (DVT).

The risk of venous thrombosis may be increased during aeroplane flights, possibly related to the activation of coagulation by low oxygen concentration (hypoxia) that is caused by the reduction of pressure in the aircraft cabin.

Peter Robbins from the University of Oxford, UK, and colleagues exposed eight healthy human participants to eight hours of hypoxia and eight hours of normal air as a control. Venous blood was sampled before and after the exposure and analysed for markers of activated coagulation.

There were no significant changes in clotting activity between hypoxic and control environments.

Peter Robbins comments: "Although our findings exclude a major activation of the clotting system by an eight-hour exposure to hypoxia, they do not exclude more minor effects, since the number of participants was insufficient to do this analysis. In addition, our results do not exclude a major activation of the clotting system in a subset of susceptible individuals. To address these questions, a much larger scale study would be required."
Contact: Professor Peter A Robbins, University Laboratory of Physiology, University of Oxford, Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PT; T) +44-0-1865-272490; F) +44-0-1865-272469; E) peter.robbins@physiol.ox.ac.uk


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