The objective of this study was to characterize risk factors for thrombotic events in lupus patients. A total of 272 lupus patients were followed up for five years during which the presence of aPL antibodies [anticardiolipin (aCL), anti-beta2-glycoprotein I (abeta2GPI) and lupus anticoagulant (LAC)] were determined, and all thrombotic incidents and antithrombotic therapy-related data were collected. At baseline, three groups were constituted, an aPL- group with 107 aPL negative patients, an aPL+ group with 81 aPL positive patients without clinical thrombosis and a secondary antiphospholipid syndrome (APS) group with 84 aPL+ patients who met the Sapporo criteria. LAC was more common in the APS than the aPL+ group (32.1% versus 9.9%, P < 0.001). The prevalence of clinical thrombotic events was significantly higher when all three types of aPL were present compared to only aCL positive cases. During follow up, aPL appeared in 7.5% of the aPL- group, and 2.8% of this group had thrombotic complications. In the aPL+ group, thrombotic events reoccurred in 1.9% of those receiving antithrombotic prophylaxis and 6.9% of those without primary prophylaxis. Despite anticoagulant therapy, thrombotic events reoccurred in 8.3% of the APS group. These findings indicate that LAC, constant and cumulative presence of aPL and previous thrombosis are positive predictors for the development of thrombotic complication in lupus patients.