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Tuesday, September 1, 2015
Risk of stroke with air travel
What is the latest consensus on the risk of air travel? This particular patient is 87 years but has always been fit and active, has AF, has had 2 almost simultaneous serious clots to limbs - left arm, left leg 2 years ago which required extensive surgery, is again mobile though with a cane, but is now on Warfarin and doing well (although his inr fluctuates frequently), faces a 6-7 hour flight with no stopover on an airline with only economy seats (to my knowledge). Any significant risk would likely make us change our plans. Thanks. I look forward to your reply.
I do not know the answer to this question, and do not think that there has been a scientific study that will answer the question specific to stroke or any other medical complication. I believe that the risk is low (less than 5% chance) for clots to develop, especially on Coumadin if the dose is therapeutic. Risk will be further reduced if the patient tries to get up and walk about on several occasions during the flight. You would want to avoid sitting still for all 6-7 hours if possible. The risk will be low, but not zero.
I hope this helps.
Brett Kissela, MD
Assistant Professor of Neurology
Director, Neurology Residency Program
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati