Risk factors for venous thromboembolism (VTE)

Who is at risk from venous thromboembolism?

Every year, venous thromboembolism (VTE) affects about one in every 1000 people in Australia [1]. But it is important to know that venous thromboembolism (VTE) is more common in hospitalised patients. Large studies have shown that the incidence of VTE in patients who are or who have recently been discharged from hospital are about 100 times greater than the incidence found in the community [2].

Anyone can develop a VTE, but there are a number of well-known factors that can increase the risk. Increasing age is a persistent and well-known risk factor for VTE [2]. Another persistent risk factor is called ‘thrombophilia’—the increased tendency to develop blood clots due to an abnormality in the body’s normal clotting system [3]. Some risk factors are temporary, for example surgery. If an otherwise healthy person has surgery, the risk associated with the operation soon passes. The more risk factors present, the greater the risk of developing a VTE [2]. Below, you can learn more about risk factors for VTE [4].

Always talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about risk factors or if you think you have symptoms of VTE.

Risk factors for VTE [4]
  • Hospitalisation
  • Major surgery, such as pelvis/abdomen/hip/knee surgery
  • Severe trauma, such as a car accident
  • Injury to a vein due to a broken bone or severe muscle injury
  • Knee/hip replacement
  • Cancer and cancer treatments
  • Birth control methods containing estrogen, such as pills, patches or rings
  • Pregnancy, which includes six weeks following delivery
  • Hormone therapy containing estrogen
  • A family history of blood clots
  • Overweight
  • Confinement to bed/wheelchair
  • Sitting for a long period of time, especially with legs crossed
  • Smoking
  • Age 55 or older
  • Diabetes or long-term diseases such as heart and lung conditions

VTEMatters offers general information only. Please see a healthcare professional for medical advice.

References

  1. Hibbert PD et al. Assessing the appropriateness of prevention and management of venous thromboembolism in Australia: a cross-sectional study. BMJ Open 2016; 6: e008618.
  2. Khalafallah AA et al. Venous thromboembolism in medical patients during hospitalisation and 3 months after hospitalisation: a prospective observational study. BMJ Open 2016; 6(8): e012346.
  3. Thrombophilias. Accessed on 22 November 2018.
  4. National Blood Clot Alliance. About clots. Accessed on 22 November 2018.