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ECONOMY CLASS SYNDROME AND DVT

beautiful lots of legs

Leg pain can sometimes be a precursor to a deadly medical problem, commonly known as DVT (deep vein thrombosis).   DVT  is a serious condition that occurs when a blood clot forms in a vein located deep inside your body.  Leg pain behind the knee could be a red flag.  When a patient comes in complaining of pain in this area of the leg, we want to immediately do an ultrasound to identify any vein blockages or narrowing of the vein behind the knee.  If left undiagnosed,  DVT can occur. 

 

VEINS popiteal back of knee

The technical description of this condition is as follows:  There can be an occlusion of the deep vein of the leg in the femoral popliteal area (the area behind the knee).  An occlusion could be described as a blockage, which would prohibit the free flow of blood in the vein.   Narrowing of the vein could be another way of “blocking” the free flow of blood.  The area behind the knee where this can occur is referred to as “Hunter’s canal.” 

veins man in airplane

 

 

A nickname for this condition is “Economy Class Syndrome.”  Patients who have taken a long airplane flight, thus being put in an immobilizing chair position, can experience this pain behind the knee.  (The thought being that in “first class” the passenger can stretch out!)   Being  immobilized in the chair position can produce unusual pressure on the femoral  vein, causing the  development of  deep vein thrombosis (DVT). 

In summary, blockage or slowing of the blood flow, whether caused by a narrowing of the vein or a long, long flight, can occur because of prolonged muscle compression within the Hunter’s canal on the femoral vein as it passes up the back of the leg. 

After sonogram examination, if there is a problem, a prevention plan can be made for the patient.  Recommendations may include occasional use of compression stockings as well as exercises for the calf muscles.  Every resource  should be utilized to prevent possible formation of DVT.  At Vein & Skin we are experienced in diagnosing and creating a treatment plan to minimize the risk of DVT.