The Economy Class Syndrome – Thromboembolic Disease


Prolonged immobility on a long-haul flight and sitting with bent legs with compression of the back of the knees by the front edge of the seat can obstruct the flow of blood in the leg veins. This may initiate the process of thrombosis (clotting) of the leg veins resulting in their blockage


Predisposing factors should be modified:

  • Discontinue oral contraceptives / stop smoking / try to achieve your optimal weight

Precautions during your flight:

  • You should purchase and use full-length Anti-Embolism (TED / DVT) stockings for the duration of your flight, during and after surgery.
  • Drink lots of water and not alcohol as this dehydrates your system.
  • Take along your own bottled water.
  • Walk around as often as possible during your flight to keep your blood circulation going (get an aisle seat).
  • Avoid sleeping tablets as they result in prolonged periods of immobility.
  • While you are in your seat, alternately contract and relax different muscle groups, especially those of the lower legs, this helps the blood flow in your legs

When you arrive in Cape Town:

  • Go for a brisk walk soon after arrival to assist the circulation in your legs.

Posted by Stuart Geldenhuys

My philosophy centres on personal care. Compassion for my patients and the value of attentive communication have been an integral part of my approach from my first days of internship at Groote Schuur and Red Cross Children's Hospitals in Cape Town. It is my belief that effective communication is the basis for a successful outcome. I make it a priority to keep abreast of trends and advances in my field by regularly attending local and international conferences. I employ conventional techniques that deliver predictable, natural results. I believe it is the subtle modifications of each technique, particular to each individual, which optimise the outcome.