A case report published in Case Reports in Pulmonology illustrates the potential health risks associated with prolonged television (TV) consumption.

In this case, a 59-year-old female presented to the emergency department with right calf pain and swelling. Her medical history included obesity (BMI: 51kg/m2), autoimmune hepatitis (treated with azathioprine), osteoporosis (treated with alendronate), hiatal hernia, and sleep apnea requiring nighttime continuous positive airway pressure. Patient interview revealed that she had been watching television for 8 hours straight the day before she started feeling the pain, with just one bathroom break. In addition to the calf pain, the patient reported occasional dizziness and dyspnea on exertion.

A workup of the patient revealed “occlusive thrombus to right popliteal and right posterior tibial vein” as well as “bilateral pulmonary emboli, specifically right upper lobe, right middle lobe, and left lower lobe segmental thrombi.”  The patient was initiated on IV heparin and was later transitioned to rivaroxaban; she was discharged 3 days later without complications. 

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While death from pulmonary embolism (PE) while watching TV may be a rare event, previous studies have demonstrated a positive association between time watching TV and the risk of death from PE (double the risk for >5hrs per day). It is postulated that prolonged sitting, such as with long distance air travel, may increase hypercoagulability and that regular interruption of time spent sitting, may prevent the occurrence.

“The advent of streaming technology has made what is colloquially referred to as ‘binge watching’ through TV and other digital devices easy and common,” state the authors. This may in turn increase the risk of thromboembolism especially in patients with preexisting risk factors such as obesity.

“The medical community and the public may well be aware that traveling for a long period of time is a risk. Now, we should add a reminder of the same risk when watching television,” they conclude.

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