First-class air passenger killed by blood clots

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The Independent Online

A woman who flew first class from the United States to Britain has died of "economy-class syndrome" a day after the journey.

A woman who flew first class from the United States to Britain has died of "economy-class syndrome" a day after the journey.

Ann Price, 57, began complaining that she could not breathe soon after returning from a wedding anniversary holiday with her husband, flying from Miami to Gatwick on Virgin Atlantic. Mrs Price, of Bottesford in Nottinghamshire, died on 26 February in Grantham Hospital from blood clots in her lungs.

An inquest into her death was opened on 4 March and adjourned for reports.

The case has confirmed fears that not only those travelling in cramped conditions at the back of a plane are at risk of deep vein thrombosis. Experts now suggest those paying the highest fares might be in the most danger.

Mrs Price's flight lasted six and a half hours. Blood clots can form on long flights because the blood thickens and circulation in the lower parts of the legs becomes sluggish during long-haul flights. In some cases, this can become a clot – a deep vein thrombosis or DVT – which can then cause damage in the heart or lungs.

Virgin Atlantic says it gives the same advice to passengers in all classes to move around the cabin and drink plenty of fluids, avoiding alcohol.

Government guidelines brought out last year after a number of deaths attributed to DVT on long-haul flights state that people who have a past history of thrombosis, and women on hormone replacement therapy, have a higher risk of developing DVT. Mrs Price had a blood clot 20 years ago after an operation, and was on hormone replacement therapy.

Professor John Scurr, a consultant surgeon at the Lister Hospital in London, who is an expert in DVT, noted in a paper last year that 12 out of 100 people who had been on flights had detectable clots, though almost all dissolved without further treatment.

He advised that people should "drink plenty of water and avoid excessive consumption of alcohol," and added: "Whilst you are sitting in your seat, move your feet up and down regularly, and if you can get out of your seat, walk round the aeroplane."

First-class and business-class passengers, who have larger, more comfortable seats, are potentially at greater risk because they are offered free alcohol, which reduces the fluid in the blood, and tend to stay seated during flights.

The Aviation Health Institute has calculated that 2,000 people die in Britain each year from flight-related blood clots, and that 30,000 are affected by the condition, which can lead to soreness in the shoulders and chest.