The Risk Management Tool Box Blog

Deep Vein Thrombosis

Graham Marshall - Friday, September 16, 2011
Because of the international nature of oil-field work, expatriate workers are at particular risk from deep-vein thrombosis (DVT) due to the travel demands of the job.

Long international flights from homes in the USA, Europe or Australia for oil-patch workers are quite common as they travel to fields across the globe.

In Australia, the National Offshore Petroleum Safety Authority (NOPSA) has noted a growing trend for workers traveling on long-haul flights to Australian oil and gas facilities to be reporting sick with DVT. 

DVT occurs when blood clots in a deep vein within the body - usually in the upper or lower legs.

DVT typically occurs when a person sits for a long time without contracting the muscles in the legs - as is typical on long-haul flights.
Blood then moves quite slowly and pools in the veins resulting in clotting and DVT.

It is suspected that the twin threats of keeping legs stationary combined with dehydration whilst flying interrupts the blood flow which causes clots.

The symptoms associated with DVT are not always obvious and a blood clot is not necessarily fatal.

But in some circumstances, however, the clots can become dislodged from the legs and travel to the lungs or brain causing strokes, organ damage, or death.

The good news, however, is that simple control measures are readily-available to most oil-field workers and other international jet-setters.  Here are some ideas for reducing the risk of DVT:

  • Periodically stretch out and move your legs and ankles and massage your calves while seated to stimulate blood circulation;
  • Don't cross your legs;
  • Remain hydrated, drink plenty of water or other non alcoholic fluids during your flight;
  • Reduce or eliminate alcohol consumption during flights as it causes dehydration;
  • Unless you can lie horizontally (i.e., in business or first-class), minimize the time you spend sleeping as you're less likely to be moving around;
  • Wear loose, non restrictive clothing during air travel; and
  • If safe to do so, get up and walk around a least once every hour.


Finally, upon arrival at your destination, if you feel in any way unwell report immediately to medical practitioner and let them know you've been flying recently.

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