Elevated plasma factor VIII coagulant activity (FVIII:C, > 150 IU/dl) is a risk factor for venous thromboembolism (VTE). We hypothesized that increased FVIII:C may exert a prothrombotic effect by increasing basal thrombin generation. To test this hypothesis we have measured prothrombin fragment 1 + 2 (F1 + 2) and thrombin–antithrombin complex (TAT) in three groups: (i) patients with objectively confirmed VTE and elevated FVIII:C; (ii) patients with VTE and no detectable thrombophilia; and (iii) healthy age- and sex-matched control subjets. In the group of patients with elevated FVIII:C, TAT and F1 + 2 levels were increased in 85% and 78% of individuals respectively. This frequency of coagulation activation is dramatically higher than that reported for other recognized constitutional thrombophilias. In the group of patients with VTE but no proven thrombophilia, increased thrombin generation was present in 30% of individuals. Basal thrombin generation was significantly higher in patients with elevated FVIII:C compared with individuals with VTE but no documented thrombophilia (median TAT = 8·65 µg/l versus 2·95 µg/l, median F1 + 2 = 1·5 nmol/l versus 0·87 nmol/l; P < 0·0001, P < 0·001). Overall FVIII:C levels were strongly correlated with levels of thrombin generation (r= 0·5, P < 0001). The clinical significance of such markedly increased F1 + 2 and TAT levels in patients with high FVIII:C levels remains unclear.