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SAA's bid to settle the DVT enigma. (Products & Processes). (South Africa Airways to study causes of deep vein thrombosis in economy class airline passengers).

The debate raging over whether or not the cramped conditions for economy class airline passengers is a direct cause of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) will hopefully be settled when the results of an innovative survey are known later this year. Right now, opinion is divided, and depends on which medical researchers you talk to. It also depends on whether you're an airline executive or an economy class passenger.

The possibility of developing a deep-seated blood clot or embolism on long-haul air journeys has been around for many years (former US President Richard Nixon developed a deep vein pulmonary embolism while flying to Russia in the 70s), but the problem was only given any prominence last year when a passenger flying from Australia to Europe died from DVT and subsequent cases were reported. Almost without exception, the victims were economy class passengers squeezed into ever diminishing seat spaces as financially-squeezed airlines crammed more and more economy-class passengers on board.

Now South Africa Airways is using 1,000 of its long haul passengers on the London/Heathrow-Johannesburg leg as guinea pigs in their "Business class vs economy class syndrome as a cause of thrombosis" (BEST) research in association with Johannesburg's University of the Witwatersrand (Wits).

Passengers on the route are asked to volunteer for the programme that aims to identify which factors cause individuals to be particularly at risk of developing DVD. Factors include height, weight, gender, age, in-flight activity, genetic profile and seating position.

Earlier studies suggested that some 10% of all economy class passengers suffer from DVT, while others propose that the condition can result from any long periods of immobility, not necessarily only while flying.

Over a month, the 500 business class and 500 economy class volunteers will fill in a questionnaire before boarding, have one ankle measured and give a blood sample.

In-flight, the participating passengers will keep a log of their fluid intake and activity. On arrival at Johannesburg International, volunteers will give another sample and have their ankle re-measured. They'll also undergo an ultrasound to test for any clots that may have developed on the flight.

Says an SPA spokesman: "The volunteers will get VIP treatment from SAA while helping the medical profession to clear away the cloud hanging over air travel and its link to DVD."
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Publication:African Business
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:6SOUT
Date:Jun 1, 2002
Words:381
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