Long journeys by plane are often implicated, but staying too long in a car would be a risk factor for phlebitis or pulmonary embolism, according to a study published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology.
After the Kumamoto earthquake in Japan in April 2016, many people were afraid to return home, they chose to flee. As a result, the roads became saturated and a large number of people were trapped in their cars.
In order to assess the impact of sitting in cars for long periods of time, investigators from Kumamoto’s Threatosis Thrombosis and Embolism Protection (KEEP) project collected data following the Kumamoto earthquakes.
They found an “epidemic” of blood clots developing in the legs, and pulmonary embolism, an obstruction of a pulmonary artery by this clot, which goes back all the to the heart. Analysis of questionnaires from 21 local medical institutions found that 51 patients were hospitalized following earthquakes due to venous thrombosis. Of these, 42 patients (82.4%) had spent the night in a vehicle. Venous thrombosis was complicated by pulmonary embolism for 35 cases.
“This is a dramatic example of the risks involved in staying immobile for extended periods in a cramped position,” commented Stanley Nattel, MD, editor of the Canadian Journal of Cardiology.
“This is an important reminder of a public health point and it reinforces the need to get up and walk regularly when you are on a plane or when you have to stay in a car for a long time,” concludes lead researcher Seiji Hokimoto.