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MUST READ: SUDDEN DEATH FOLLOWING LONG HAUL FLIGHTS

  • Have you ever visited a vulcanizer to have the “fab” of your tyre fixed? I bet you know the importance of having a “fab” in place if you drive a car. The “fab” as said by the vulcanizer is actually in proper English a valve. A valve also known as a stopcock is a device that allows the flow of gas or liquid in one direction. It prevents a backflow which may cause problems like the loss of air pressure from your tyre. A valve is a popular terminology in the piping or Oil & Gas sector where they deal with fluids and gases.

    We human beings also have valves in our system. Our veins which are meant to return blood from the organs and peripheral parts of our body back to the heart for oxygenation contain valves. Because the veins do not have a propulsive force that drives blood in the direction the body wants unlike the arteries, the body has some alternate complimentary mechanisms forreturning the blood to the heart. This includes the presence of valves to prevent a back flow and muscle action. While the upper part of the body has a much easier return of blood to the heart through gravity, the lower part of the body does not. In its place, muscles through their movement help to propel blood from the veins back towards the heart.

     

    Read the rest after the cut....

     

    Lately there have been a few deaths reported in the media of people dying following long haul flights. The last case which has spurred me to write this was the British Envoy, Mr. Leslie Peter Carter who slumped at the Lagos airport upon returning from a trip to the United States. Earlier in 2013, it was FataiRolling Dollar and later Dr. Olusegun Agagu, a former Governor of Ondo State and one time Minister of Aviation.There may have been many more that were not reported in the dailies like those I have mentioned here. The three of them had returned from the US and died or took ill shortly upon returning to the country. Thus, the Epidemiologist in me has put together an observation that these deaths may be somewhat connected based on the suddenness of their death and the relationship with a long haul flight. However for certainty on the cause of death, a post mortem examination would need to have been done.

    Deep venous thrombosis (DVT) is a condition which ariseswhen blood clots within the veins as a result of poor flow of blood towards the heart or back flowing of blood in the veins. DVT is popularly known to occur in the deep veins of the leg.Naturally, clotting is a physiological process which the body uses to prevent excessive loss of blood when there is damage to a blood vessel. Clotting in a normal scenario should take place outside the body. However, there are some conditions that may reverse this status and permit clotting to happen within the vessels. In the elderly, the valves in the vein are weak and calcified which make them less effective to prevent a backflowof blood.

    DVT has been well documented to be associated with long haul flights. However, knowledge about such association may not be widely known in our country. During such flights, there is reduced muscle action which naturally aids venous return to the heart thereby causing “stasis”. This is worsened when there are other associated risk factors that can promote DVT like calcified valves and varicose veins. In order to avert more of such untimely deaths, people need to be more aware and informed about the risks of long haul flights which can predispose to deep venous thrombosis and pulmonary thromboembolism (PTE) or “heart attack”.

    Those at a higher risk of DVT include; those with varicose veins, the elderly, pregnant, obese, recently had a surgery, on oral contraceptive pills, very tall or very short, patients with a cancer, and some blood disorders like Polycythemia or Thrombophilia.

    How do you reduce your chances for a DVT when next you travel?

    • Assess yourself if you are a high risk candidate
    • Take a lot of water to avoid dehydration
    • Walk around frequently within the plane as long as it is safe to do so
    • Use of a below knee graduated compression stockings
    • Consult a specialist on the associated risk factor

    If you know someone who died shortly after travelling on a long haul flight and will like to share your experience with the writer, you can reach him at sesmak@gmail.com with the title of the message starting with DVT.

     

    You can learn more about DVT at the following websites

     

    http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2014/chapter-2-the-pre-travel-consultation/deep-vein-thrombosis-and-pulmonary-embolism

     

    http://www.patient.co.uk/health/preventing-dvt-when-you-travel

     

    http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1911303-overview

     

    Olusesan Makinde.

     

    Olusesan is a Physician and Epidemiologist with John Snow Inc.on the MEASURE Evaluation Project in Abuja, Nigeria.

     

     

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