Harvard Heart Letter

Ask the doctor: Can I fly again after having a DVT?

Q. Last year I had a deep-vein thrombosis with a small pulmonary embolism, apparently precipitated by flying across the country without getting up and walking around. I did just fine with anticoagulation and am now off all medications. Is it safe for me to fly again? If so, what precautions would you recommend?

A. Yes, you can fly again, if you take some precautions. Before I describe them, though, I would like to raise an equally important issue for your health and well-being.

The fact that you developed a deep-vein thrombosis (DVT) and a pulmonary embolism (PE) indicates that your blood has a tendency to clot under certain stressful conditions, such as sitting on an airplane for several hours. Having one DVT or PE means you are at high risk for another, even if you avoid air travel. Without an anticoagulant to help protect against blood clots, your chance of having a repeat DVT or PE is about 30% to 50% over the next 10 years. Many doctors, including me, would advise you to take an anticoagulant such as warfarin indefinitely.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »