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Overview of the causes of venous thrombosis

Kenneth A Bauer, MD
Section Editors
Lawrence LK Leung, MD
Jess Mandel, MD
Deputy Editor
Geraldine Finlay, MD


The most common presentations of venous thrombosis are deep vein thrombosis (DVT) of the lower extremity and pulmonary embolism. The causes of venous thrombosis can be divided into two groups: hereditary and acquired, and are often multiple in a given patient.

The inherited and acquired causes of venous thrombosis will be reviewed here (table 1) [1,2]. The diagnostic approach to the patient with suspected venous thrombosis, the evaluation and treatment of patients with documented venous thrombosis, and the various causes of upper extremity venous thrombosis are discussed separately. (See "Diagnosis of suspected deep vein thrombosis of the lower extremity" and "Evaluating patients with established venous thromboembolism for acquired and inherited risk factors" and "Overview of the treatment of lower extremity deep vein thrombosis (DVT)" and "Approach to the diagnosis and therapy of lower extremity deep vein thrombosis" and "Primary (spontaneous) upper extremity deep vein thrombosis" and "Brachial plexus syndromes" and "Catheter-related upper extremity venous thrombosis".)


A major theory delineating the pathogenesis of venous thromboembolism (VTE), often called Virchow's triad [3,4], proposes that VTE occurs as a result of:

Alterations in blood flow (ie, stasis)

Vascular endothelial injury


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