Venous Thromboembolism (VTE)

What is VTE?

Venous thromboembolism (VTE) is the formation of blood clots in the vein. A blood clot can occur suddenly, without warning, and can be fatal in nearly one-third of patients as it can go unrecognized and undiagnosed by a healthcare professional. There are two types:

  • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT): A blood clot that forms in a deep vein (usually in the leg).
  • Pulmonary embolism (PE): A blood clot in the lungs. PE occurs when a DVT breaks free from a vein wall, travels to the lungs and blocks some or all blood supplied to the lungs. PE can often be fatal.
  • Venous thrombi, composed predominately of red blood cells but also platelets and leukocytes bound together by fibrin, form in sites of vessel damage and areas of stagnant blood. Thrombi either remain in the peripheral veins, where they eventually undergo endogenous fibrinolysis and recanalization, or they embolize to the pulmonary arteries and cause PE.


Risk factors for VTE include increasing age, prolonged immobility, malignancy, major surgery, multiple trauma, prior VTE, and chronic heart failure. 


Diagnosis: A VTE risk assessment, a questionnaire that gathers information about a patient's age, medical history, medications and specific lifestyle factors. Information is then used to discern a patient’s potential risk (e.g., high, moderate or low risk) for developing blood clots in the legs or lungs. Blood work may be done initially, including a test called D-dimer, which detects clotting activity.

  • DVT: ultrasound of the leg is most often used.
  • PE: Computed tomography, or CT scan, or CAT scan is most often used. Sometimes ventilation-perfusion lung scan is used. Both tests can see intravenous dyes in the arteries of the lung, looking for blockages by clots.


Treatment for people with VTE require immediate medical attention. Blood thinning medication (anticoagulants) is used to break up clots and prevent new ones from forming. Other options include mechanical devices and/or thrombolytic therapy.



  • An estimated 60,000-100,000 Americans die of DVT/PE each year
  • As many as 900,000 people (1 to 2 per 1,000) could be affected each year in the United States
  • 1/3 of people with VTE will have recurrence within 10 years
  • 10-30% of people will die within one month of diagnosis
about venous thromboembolism (VTE)


  • "Know VTE." World Thrombosis Day. International Society on Thrombosis and Haemostasis, Inc., n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2017.
  • John R., and Asuka Ozaki. "Venous Thromboembolism (Deep Venous Thrombosis & Pulmonary Embolism)." Venous Thromboembolism | Deep Venous Thrombosis - Pulmonary Embolism. N.p., Dec. 2012. Web. 08 Apr. 2017.
  • Dean, Steven M., and William Abraham. "Venous Thromboembolic Disease in Congestive Heart Failure. “Congestive Heart Failure 16.4 (2010): 164-69. 2016. Web.
  • "Symptoms and Diagnosis of Venous Thromboembolism (VTE)." Symptoms and Diagnosis of Venous Thromboembolism (VTE). American Heart Association, 9 Mar. 2017. Web. 08 Apr. 2017.


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