Deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism are considered manifestations of the same pathophysiological process and are together referred to as venous thromboembolism (VTE). VTE is a common disorder with an incidence of 1 to 3 in 1000 in the general population. It is estimated that the incidence of VTE is likely to increase as the average life expectancy of the U.S. population increases. Treatment of VTE consists of anticoagulation; the duration of anticoagulation is largely determined by the circumstances surrounding development of the thrombotic event. Vitamin K antagonists, the only oral anticoagulants approved for treatment of VTE in the United States, have several drawbacks and therefore new oral anticoagulants are currently in various stages of development. This review focuses on the risk factors for VTE and the approach to determining the duration of anticoagulation in patients with VTE. Results of clinical trials on the new oral anticoagulants that may soon be licensed for the treatment of VTE are also discussed.