Holidays: Family, Travel and thrombosis |

Holidays: Family, Travel and thrombosis

Well its the holiday season, which means warm Thanksgiving gatherings and joy to the world.It also means self-imposed stress like in-laws arriving, travel plans during the busiest time of the year, crowded stores, making a contribution to your favorite charity by years end, 6 feet of snow and all in all a festive albeit hectic time.This week especially is a good time to give thanks for everything we have. And holiday travelers, it is also a time to watch out for deep vein thrombosis. Thats right, DVT.

Deep vein thrombosis is a medical condition that occurs when a blood clot forms in a deep vein, usually in the leg. It can cause serious complications if the clot breaks off and travels to an organ, most commonly to the lungs or brain.One way to suffer from DVT is to sit still for a long period of time, like during a cross-country airplane flight in a cramped seat, or even worse, on an international flight. Or the worst, an international flight with a discount airline where you have 12 inches of foot space and the same head space until the passenger in front of you reclines.

In 2003, about a dozen passengers in various cross-country flights developed DVT, some even dying as a result of blood clots spreading to a vital organ. The DVT passengers sued most U.S. airlines making two claims.First, for failure to warn passengers about the risk of developing DVT and advising of steps that can be taken during a flight to mitigate the risk of DVT. According to the plaintiffs, the airlines were aware of the risk of DVT, yet gave no warnings and failed to tell passengers there are measures to prevent DVT, such as walking around the cabin, exercising your legs while seated, or wearing compression stockings. When we flew to London last year we were given high compression stockings and told to walk around from time to time.The second claim in the lawsuits was that the airlines provided an unsafe seating configuration by limiting each passengers legroom, thus increasing the risk of DVT. What juror doesnt want more legroom? Sounds like a winner.

The airlines joined together and filed a Joint Response arguing that federal law completely controls airline safety issues, which prevents states from mandating warnings about DVT and requiring more legroom on planes. Only the federal government may mandate warnings about DVT and mandate particular seating configurations. The federal trial court ruled that there is no federal requirement that airlines warn passengers about the risk of developing DVT, so the plaintiffs lose. The U.S. District Court of Appeal agreed. The plaintiffs lost their DVT claim.

What I dont understand, and the reason for this column, is why the airlines dont warn passengers of steps that can be taken to minimize the risk of DVT, like walking around the cabin and exercising your legs while seated or even wearing special stockings at least on long distance flights.So here is your warning: If youre flying cross country or on an international flight, walk around the cabin and get your legs moving, and if you have any unique risk of DVT, put on compression socks. That warning is more likely to save lives then some of the ridiculous rote baloney that flight attendants are required to give us like, In the unlikely event of a water landing

As to the plaintiffs second claim that the airlines were negligent in providing an unsafe seating configuration, with lack of adequate legroom, which supposedly causes blood clots, the federal Court of Appeal again ruled in favor of the airlines. Notwithstanding that passengers are often crammed into seats, the court found that to provide more legroom, the airlines would have to reduce the number of seats per aircraft which would increase ticket prices and federal law prohibits states from regulating airline prices. Federal law controls, plaintiffs lose their no-legroom claim.Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter andamp; Simon.Reach him at

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