Patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and antiphospholipid antibodies (aPL) are at a greater risk for venous thromboembolism (VTE) than SLE patients without these antibodies. For patients without SLE there is a controversy about the risk associated with these antibodies and about their prognostic significance. We reviewed the degree of evidence and describe the odds ratio for VTE associated with aPL, namely the lupus anticoagulant (LA) and anticardiolipin antibodies (aCL), in patients without SLE. The study was a meta-analysis of seven observational studies of risk for antiphospholipid associated venous thromboembolism (VTE), excluding SLE patients. The strategies to identify published research included a computerized literature search and the review of citations in primarily relevant articles for the period 1983 to 1997. A summary of study characteristics and a critical appraisal of study quality were done. Summary odds ratios were obtained conducted using a random and a fixed effects-model. The overall odds ratio for aCL associated VTE obtained by fixed-effects model was 1.56 (95% CI, 1.10-2.24) and 1.64 (95% CI, 0.93-2.89) by random-effects model. The heterogeneity of these results appeared to be due in part to the detection limit of the aCL assay: the odds ratio was 3.21 (95% CI, 1.11-9.28) with both models when high titres only were considered. The overall odds ratio for LA associated VTE was 11.1 (95% CI, 3.81-32.3). In conclusion meta-analysis of the risk for antiphospholipid associated thrombosis demonstrated a higher risk in patients with the LA than in other patients. This risk was also higher than in patients with aCL even when high titres only were considered.