This information is intended for members of the public in UK only.

What is VTE, DVT and PE?

What is venous thromboembolism (VTE)?

Blood clots occur when blood cells pool and stick together. Your body naturally forms blood clots to stop bleeding at sites of injury. However, sometimes blood clots can form inside veins.

Venous thromboembolism (or VTE for short) is a term which covers two related conditions; Deep vein thrombosis (or DVT) and Pulmonary embolism (or PE). When a blood clot blocks a vessel, most frequently within the deep veins of the legs, it is termed DVT. Part of the blood clot from a DVT may also break off and travel to the lungs resulting in a PE.

VTE is fairly common. Approximately 1 in 20 people will have a VTE in their lifetime.

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What is deep vein thrombosis (DVT)?

Deep vein thrombosis (or DVT) occurs when a blood clot (thrombus) forms in a deep vein in the body. DVTs generally occur in the lower leg, thigh or pelvic area.

The clot stops or restricts the normal flow of blood in the vein, leading to blood building up below the clot.

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What is a pulmonary embolism (PE)?

A pulmonary embolism (or PE) occurs when a blood vessel in the lungs gets blocked by a blood clot or part of a clot (embolus) that has broken loose from a DVT and travelled through the bloodstream and into the lungs.

  • If it is large, the clot may restrict blood flow to the lungs and cause breathing difficulties
  • If a DVT is untreated this increases the risk of developing a PE
  • PE is more serious than DVT and can be fatal if not immediately diagnosed and treated.
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Reference information

This section contains reference information only, is general in nature and intended to provide a general overview of venous thromboembolism for the general public in the UK. It is not intended to replace in any way the opinion of a healthcare professional. For specific information about this pathology and/or detection, diagnosis, prognosis, administration and, where applicable, appropriate treatment for each specific case, please promptly consult a healthcare professional. The use of this website is subject to the legal notice, the privacy and cookie policy, and the applicable laws and regulations.