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Ruth Christofferson
"We should be told of the risks"
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Wednesday, 28 March, 2001, 00:41 GMT 01:41 UK
MPs lobbied on flight clot danger
airline graphic
Worries over "travellers' thrombosis" are growing
Relatives of deep vein thrombosis patients are lobbying MPs on Wednesday for a full public inquiry into the link between air travel and the condition.

It is widely suspected that there is a tiny risk of suffering a dangerous clot during long-haul air travel - as there is in any form of travel in which passengers are immobile for long periods.

However, MP Dr Ian Gibson - whose own wife suffered from so-called "traveller's thrombosis", and Dr John Belstead, a specialist from a hospital near Heathrow Airport, say that the absence of a regulatory body for this aspect of the airline industry is a cause for concern.

He told the BBC's Today programme more data was needed on the issue.

"It's very difficult, because in many cases the effects happen five days after the flight, therefore it's not recognised there's a connection between the flight and the pulmonary embolism."

Families' concerns

Among those families participating in the lobby on Wednesday will be the relatives of Emma Christofferson, the 28-year-old bride-to-be from south Wales who died shortly after getting off a flight from Australia.

Her mother Ruth told Today: "More awareness is needed. It should be standard practice, as the flight drill is.

"We should be told of the risks when we are buying the airline ticket, if not before."

Since Emma's death, six other people have died at Dr Belstead's hospital, Ashford Hospital in Middlesex, with thrombosis which is thought to be air travel related.

Transport Minister Lord MacDonald has already had a "summit" with the airline industry to discuss passenger health.

'No proof'

The industry, while conceding there may well be a slightly increased risk of thrombosis connected with air travel, they deny that there is any proof of the link, and have called for more research into the issue.

Tim Goodyear of the International Air Transport Association, said: "Every individual case is tragic in itself.

"But what we think at the moment, on the available evidence, is that there's no confirmed link between DVT and air travel in itself, aside from a risk from prolonged periods of immobility."

Deep vein thrombosis happens when small blood clots form in the blood vessels of the lower legs.

While this can be painful in itself, the condition becomes more dangerous in some cases, where a tiny part of the clot breaks away and travels around the bloodstream before lodging in the lung or brain.

The result can be fatal or disabling strokes or pulmonary emboli.

The risk is thought to be higher in the elderly, or overweight, or those with a history of thrombosis.

Some patients can wear special tight stockings, or take blood thinning medication prior to travel to reduce the risk of a dangerous clot.

Several families are seeking compensation from the airlines following the deaths of their relatives.

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13 Mar 01 | Health
Airlines admit blood clot risk
30 Jan 01 | Health
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