The epidemiology of venous thromboembolism in the community: Implications for prevention and management

John A. Heit

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

250 Scopus citations


The epidemiology of venous thromboembolism (VTE) in the community has important implications for VTE prevention and management. This review describes the incidence, survival, recurrence, complications and risk factors for deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism occurring in the community. VTE incidence among whites of European origin exceeds 1 per 1000; the incidence among persons of African and Asian origin may be higher and lower, respectively. VTE incidence over recent time remains unchanged. Survival after VTE is worse than expected, especially for pulmonary embolism where one-quarter of patients present as sudden death. Of those patients who survive, 30% develop VTE recurrence and venous stasis syndrome within 10 and 20 years, respectively. Common independent VTE risk factors include surgery, hospitalization for acute medical illness, nursing home confinement, trauma, active cancer, neurologic disease with extremity paresis, superficial vein thrombosis, central venous catheter/transvenous pacemaker, and among women, oral contraceptives, pregnancy and the puerperium, and hormone and SERM therapy. Exposures can identify populations at risk but have a low predictive value for the individual person. An acquired or familial thrombophilia may predict the subset of exposed persons who actually develop symptomatic VTE. In conclusion, VTE is a common, lethal disease that recurs frequently and causes serious long-term complications. To improve survival and prevent complications, VTE occurrence must be reduced. Better individual risk stratification is needed in order to modify exposures and target primary and secondary prophylaxis to the person who would benefit most.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-29
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Thrombosis and Thrombolysis
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2006


  • Deep vein thrombosis
  • Epidemiology
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Venous thromboembolism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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