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Flying with an increased risk of thrombosis

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Flying with an increased risk of thrombosis

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A thrombosis is a blood clot, also called a thrombus. Normally, a blood clot is an important protective mechanism of the body: after an external injury, the blood coagulates, the wound closes and is thus protected from the penetration of bacteria and germs.


However, in the blood vessels inside the body, blood should always flow freely. If a thrombus develops inside a blood vessel, it can partially or completely block it up. This can endanger the body’s blood supply. Thromboses can occur in arteries or in veins, which is why we distinguish between arterial and venous thromboses.

While venous thromboses interfere with the blood flow of organs and limbs, arterial thromboses impede the blood supply to important organs such as the heart or brain. This can lead to a heart attack or a stroke. If a part of the blood clot becomes detached, it can be transported in the bloodstream to the lungs via the heart and can lead to a life-threatening pulmonary embolism. 

Risk factors for the formation of thrombosis

Many factors can increase the risk of the formation of thrombosis. Some include smoking, cancer and pregnancy. People who are overweight or over 60 years old are also at greater risk of thrombosis. In addition, hormonal changes, e.g. due to taking the contraceptive pill, or an inherited tendency to blood clotting disorders, can also lead to an increased risk of thrombosis.

If there is any suspicion of thrombosis, for example, if symptoms such as pain in the calf or swelling of the leg become apparent, a doctor should be consulted immediately so that treatment can be given as quickly as possible, to prevent more serious complications.

If a patient has an increased risk of thrombosis, they should take certain precautions to prevent the development of thrombosis. They should avoid long periods of sitting or standing. Adequate fluid intake and plenty of exercise are also recommended. However, preventative measures cannot always be implemented, especially in the case of long journeys. Long car journeys and air travel can provide favourable conditions for thrombosis, which is why wearing compression stockings is recommended while travelling. However, even this precaution cannot always completely rule out the formation of a blood clot.

Why can flying become problematic if there is an increased risk of thrombosis?

small leg place in airplane

Especially on long-haul flights, sitting still with bent legs in cramped spaces for long periods of time prevents good blood circulation in the veins, as the ‘muscle pumps’ of the lower legs cannot work efficiently. This slows down the venous return of the blood. Therefore, the blood flows through the body more slowly and thus a blood clot can form more quickly. In addition to sitting down for long periods, the lower air pressure in the aircraft is a factor that can promote sluggish blood flow. Due to the reduced air pressure, the veins expand, causing the blood to flow more slowly, which can lead to clotting.

Taking a blood-thinning medication before the start of the journey, and wearing support stockings during the flight, can help to counteract this. Overall, the risk of developing a deep vein thrombosis while travelling is relatively low. However, in rare cases, thrombosis can still occur, especially if the patient already has an increased risk of thrombosis. But the risk of thrombosis is not only increased during a flight. Blood clotting disorders can occur up to 14 days after long-haul flights, so a patient’s health status should continue to be checked for possible signs of thrombosis after the flight. After two weeks, the risk decreases again.

But what happens if a thrombosis occurs after flying on holiday abroad? If the case is acute, an ordinary flight in a passenger plane is not possible, as insufficient treatment may lead to life-threatening complications such as a pulmonary embolism. In addition, there is a risk of another thrombosis during the flight.

Flying home safely in an air ambulance despite thrombosis

If a local doctor diagnoses a tourist with a blood clot, he or she will provide the appropriate treatment. However, if they fall ill abroad, many patients wish to return home as soon as possible so they can continue their recovery in the presence of their family and their own doctors. In such cases, the patient can safely fly back to their home country by means of a Sea Level Flight in an ambulance aircraft. While the air pressure in the cabin of a scheduled airliner is the same as at an altitude of about 2500 metres, the air pressure in an ambulance aircraft – when it's adjusted to suit the patient – corresponds to an altitude of 800 to 900 metres above sea level, thanks to the reinforced cabin. This can prevent the veins from expanding and thus prevent further blood clotting.

The flight doctor on board the ambulance aircraft can provide the best possible care for the thrombosis patient thanks to state-of-the-art medical equipment. Due to its ability to land at small airports and airstrips the ambulance jet can land in the immediate vicinity of the patient's destination, eliminating the need for long journeys by road. If necessary, in addition to the provision of the ambulance aircraft, we can also organise medically accompanied ground transport.

How much does a Sea Level Flight in an air ambulance cost?

We can only provide a summary of the costs associated with an ambulance flight once we know certain key details. In addition to the urgency of the flight, indicators such as the patient's exact state of health, the number of accompanying persons, the distance to be travelled and the need for additional ground transport are also decisive.

Based on these factors, we can calculate a price for each individual case. Our experienced team is available around the clock for this purpose.

Your safe ambulance flight with Medical Repatriation UK

If you require a medical repatriation, Medical Repatriation is your competent and reliable partner. Our team is very experienced in organising ambulance flights. We would be happy to organise all aspects of the flight mission to protect you and your family members from additional stress. In addition, we will gladly relieve you of the burden of clarifying medical details with the attending doctors and support you in dealing with any other matters that are unclear.