Although the factors leading to venous thrombosis have been known for over a century, Virchow's initial model of thrombosis has been extensively refined. Activated coagulation is now recognized to be of primary importance in venous thrombogenesis; the concept of venous injury has been expanded to include molecular changes in the endothelium; and stasis has been redefined as a largely permissive factor. Furthermore, it is now clear that venous thrombi undergo a dynamic evolution beginning early after their formation. The natural history of acute deep venous thrombosis (DVT) is a balance between recurrent thrombotic events and processes that restore the venous lumen, both of which have important implications for the development of complications. Although pulmonary embolism (PE) is clearly the most life threatening complication of acute DVT, the long term socio-economic consequences of the post thrombotic syndrome (PTS) have perhaps been underemphasized in clinical trials. The development of post-thrombotic manifestations is related to both residual venous obstruction and valvular incompetence. Recognition of the factors contributing to a poor outcome, including recurrent thrombotic events, the rate of recanalization, the global extent of venous reflux, and the anatomic distribution of reflux and obstruction is important, as there may be therapeutic alternatives to alter the natural history of acute DVT. The treatment alternatives will continue to expand with the introduction of new therapeutic drugs, for both systemic and catheter-directed therapy, and mechanical thrombectomy devices. The primary care physician is challenged with the task of correctly evaluating deep vein thrombosis and providing his patient with access to the most clinically appropriate, and cost-effective, diagnostic and management options available. This article will review the epidemiology of DVT, its risk factors and major complications.