Capitol Vein Blog

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Leg and Ankle Swelling After Flying

A frequent complaint of fliers is leg and ankle swelling after flying. Airplane seats are cramped and passengers have little opportunity to get up and walk the aisles, unless they are lucky enough to have an end seat. Those passengers that fly overseas at night often sleep most of the way, limiting their ability to exercise.

Part of the problem is due to inactivity of the calf muscles, which help propel venous blood up the leg when contracted. Accompanying this activity can be leg veins that have valve problems leading to venous insufficiency (or reflux).

I had an interesting patient who often flies overseas. She had cosmetic spider veins and no visible large varicose veins. She noted that her ankles became swollen with any flight over two or three hours in length, and her feet were so uncomfortable that she had to prop her legs up in the airport terminal after exiting the plane.

I considered venous insufficiency and noted on ultrasound that each leg had rather typical saphenous vein reflux. The best treatment for this condition is VNUS Closure, which effectively seals the defective vein, allowing normal vein flow.

Since treating each leg with VNUS, she now experiences no more leg swelling or ankle discomfort while flying. Her venous disease is cured.

I often encourage patients to use support hose on longer flights and exercise the ankles and feet as much as possible to allow normalized vein flow. Keeping well hydrated and limiting alcohol intake is also beneficial in optimizing flow in the veins.

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