Commission to co-finance study of deep vein thrombosis suffered by air passengers: answer to parliamentary question

June 14, 2002

Strasbourg, 13 June 2002

Verbatim report of proceedings, 13 June 2002 (Part A)

Question no 16 by Robert J.E. Evans (H-0442/02)
Subject: Aircraft passengers and deep vein thrombosis

The Commission sent out a letter last year, encouraging airlines to inform their passengers on the possible risks of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) during long flights, and on precautionary measures to take, for example leg exercises during travel and it plans to contact the airline associations shortly, to find out which initiatives have been taken so far.

As for adequate legroom for passengers, it should be noted that the distance between seats in aircraft cabins is regulated for safety reasons, in particular to allow evacuations during emergencies. Medical opinion seems to indicate that the real problem concerns immobility. Both passengers from economy and first class can be vulnerable, even though more legroom is available in first class. The leg exercises, proposed by doctors, can be carried out in the legroom presently available in aircraft.

In order to find a clearer answer to the question of how far DVT is linked to air transport, the Commission will co-finance a study on DVT. This study will be carried out by experts, under the auspices of the World Health Organisation. The study aims to measure the strength of the link between air transport and DVT, and the importance of other, patient-related factors, like age, weight and medical condition. It will also examine the effects of cabin conditions, like low air pressure and levels of oxygen.

As the strength of this link is not knowed, it is not possible for the Member States or the World Health Organisation to collect statistics at this stage. The above mentioned epidemiological study will certainly facilitate the design and collection of statistics, once the results are known.

The Parliament will be kept duly informed of the results of this study.

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