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DVT not just for airline passengers

Friday 1 April

DVT not just for airline passengers

Deep vein thrombosis from long periods of sitting is not just a hazard for those on long-haul aeroplane flights. An article in this week’s New Zealand Medical Journal describes SIT (seated immobility thromboembolism), a life-threatening condition occurring in people with none of the usual ‘economy-class syndrome’ risk factors.

SIT syndrome: a 21st century lifestyle hazard, by Medical Research Institute of NZ director Dr Richard Beasley and colleagues, discusses five New Zealand cases involving people aged under 40, four of whom worked with computers. The fifth case occurred in a chef who also spent long periods at the computer for recreation.

The average length of time per day spent seated ranged from 8 to 15 hours (with the maximum number of hours seated ranging between 8 and 30 hours). The subjects reported being seated between 3 to 6 hours at a time without getting up to stand or walk around.

‘The likelihood of a young adult without underlying risk factors developing a deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism would be considered extremely low,’ says Dr Beasley in his paper. ‘The cases were characterised by the considerable length of time the individuals sat.’

‘This report carries a key message for all New Zealanders, especially as we all spend more and more time in front of computers,’ said Dr Tricia Briscoe, Chairman of the New Zealand Medical Association. ‘Any activity that involves prolonged sitting must be regularly broken by exercising the legs.’

Another paper in the same issue of the Medical Journal, Heathrow to ICU direct, describes a life-threatening incident involving a woman on her honeymoon who suffered a massive pulmonary embolism on her flight to New Zealand. The editorial Where inaction can be fatal, by respiratory physician Dr Rodney Hughes, comments on these papers, noting that ‘there is little evidence that venous thromboembolism (VTE) is unique to air travel. These cases highlight the need to advise regular lower limb (and perhaps even upper limb) exercises to anyone seated for a prolonged period.’

These papers are available from NZMA National Office.


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